Surveillance is really getting under my skin

This unique human chip implant was supposed to protect me - but it just makes me more vulnerable

Henry Porter

London Observer

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The most shocking part of Britain's frantic rush towards a fully fledged surveillance society is not so much the threat to personal liberty, although that is important; it is the lack of security in the systems that are confidently held up to be the solution to the problems of 21st-century crime and terrorism.

While each of us is required to give more and more information about ourselves to the government's various centralised databases, and submit to increasing surveillance in our daily lives, almost no one seems to consider the risk to us if these systems are breached.

For some time now, I have been warning about the menace that these systems may come to represent in the hands of future governments, the nature of which we cannot know. But having spent the last few months making a film, Suspect Nation, with the director Neil Ferguson - about the growth of surveillance since 9/11 - I realise that the threat exists in the present. Both of us were astonished at the gaps in security that we found and the insouciance of government.

It is difficult to know whether this comes from ignorance or a failure of imagination, but as the barriers are swept away by science, ministers, few of whom have the slightest technical knowledge, place increasing faith in surveillance technologies.

What they do not grasp is that when you pool records on a national database, you are also creating a very attractive target. And sooner or later, someone will find the unmarked back door.

We spent some time in America investigating these new technologies with a sentence from Jay Stanley of the American Civil liberties Union ringing in our ears. 'There is a lot of room,' he wrote, 'for the United States to become a meaner, less open and less just place without any radical change in government. All that's required is the continued construction of new surveillance technologies and the simultaneous erosion of privacy protections.' That seems to describe perfectly the process that is underway in Britain.

監視は、独特の人間のチップ注入が仮定された私の皮膚のこの場所が私を保護することを本当に得ています - しかし、それはちょうど私をより弱くします






しばらくの間今は、私はこれらのシステムが将来の政府の手において代表するようになるかもしれない脅威について警告していました。そして、それの性質を我々は知ることができません。しかし、ディレクターニールファーガソンと映画(Suspect Nation)を製作することに最後の数ヵ月を費やしたこと - 9/11から監視の成長について - 私は、脅威が現在の中に存在すると理解します。我々双方は、我々が見つけた保安と政府の無関心の隙間に驚きました。




One of these new technologies is RFID (radio frequency identification), which are inexpensive microchips that give out information when activated by a scanner. They are used by shops to track their products and now increasingly in identification of all sorts, from building entry cards to driving licences. The problem is that it is difficult to protect the chip you are carrying from transmitting your personal details.

Take the new passport. Pressed by the US, countries around the world are introducing a passport containing an RFID chip which transmits all the particulars of your passport together with your photograph when it is scanned at a national border. But these new, 21st-century passports may be rather less secure than the 20th-century version.

In an experiment conducted for Suspect Nation, security expert Adam Laurie took just a couple of weeks to write a programme and add a scanner which would read any new British passport without it being open.

The possibility of a passport being read by someone who needs only to brush against you with a version of Laurie's equipment is obviously alarming, yet a Home Office spokesman seemed relaxed about the lack of security. 'It is hard to see why anyone would want to carry out the procedure described. Other than the photograph, which could be obtained easily by other means, they would gain no information that they did not already have, so the whole exercise would be utterly pointless.'

If the Home Office hasn't got the point, authorities in the US have, which is why they have included a metal shield in the design for their new passport. What they probably realise is that the covert reading of passport could represent a considerable threat, especially to those whose nationality terrorists want to target or those who may represent rich pickings for criminals.

The technology used in the ID card is likely to be very similar to that in the new passport. It is true that all the information you will be forced to submit to the government in the ID card scheme will be stored on a central database called the National Identity Register, but our experiment reading passports must at least open up the possibility of ID theft. Once something has been read, it is that much easier to clone it.

Looking through the ID card debates in Hansard, it becomes obvious that most MPs simply didn't understand that the threat comes not just from pooling everyone's information in one database, but from creating a single trusted identifier which is bound to become a irresistible challenge for criminals.

Everywhere you turn in America, there are frantic efforts to make Americans more secure. One solution that is gaining currency in the US is the use of an RFID implant which is shot into the body by means of a large hypodermic needle. The chip can be read when a scanner is passed over the area where it lurks in the fatty tissue below the surface of the skin.



Suspect Nationのために行われる実験では、セキュリティ専門家のアダムローリーに、プログラムを書いて、開いてそれなしでどんな新しい英国のパスポートでも読むスキャナを加えるために、ちょうど二週がかかりました。



身分証明書で使用されるテクノロジーは、新しいパスポートでそれと非常に類似していそうです。あなたが身分証明書計画で政府を受け入れることを強制されるという全ての情報が国立Identity Registerと呼ばれている中心データベース上に格納されるというのは本当です、しかし、パスポートを読んでいる我々の実験はID窃盗の可能性を少なくとも開かなければなりません。一旦何かが読まれるならば、それのクローンをつくることはそんなにより簡単です。



It is promoted by the sinister sounding VeriChip Corporation of America, which is pioneering the implants (originally developed to tag animals) as a way of identifying immigrants, military personnel, casino workers and patients who suffer various degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. We attended a surgery run by a Dr J Musher in an anonymous Washington suburb and I was duly injected with a chip bearing a unique number. I am probably now the only living creature in Britain, other than prize cattle and show dachshunds, to be tagged in this way. I have a hint of Blade Runner about me: half-man, half-transmitter.

But it turns out that this futuristic device is rather unimpressive. It took Adam Laurie no time at all to pass a scanner over my arm, extract the information and clone the RFID.

You can see the attraction of such gimmicks. The same instinct is busy consigning us all to centralised databases and promotes the use of number-recognition cameras to track our movements. In the face of the great threats of the modern world, our leaders have become mesmerised by the promise of total and inviolate security.

But there is no such thing. Indeed, there is every reason to suppose that this technology and the huge centralised databases, with their multiple points of access, mean that we will become exposed to the very threats they seek to protect us from.

The truth is that as soon as a piece of security technology is introduced, its existence inspires an equal ingenuity among those who wish to break it. Caught in the middle of this security arms race are you and me, seen as suspects by one side and as fair game by the other.

? Henry Porter and Neil Ferguson's film, Suspect Nation, can be seen on More4 at 9pm tomorrow

それはアメリカの不吉な調査VeriChip社によって昇進します。そして、それはアルツハイマー病のようないろいろな変性疾患にかかる移民、軍人、カジノ労働者と患者を特定する方法として移植組織(当初、動物にタグを付けるために開発される)を創始しています。我々は匿名のワシントン郊外でJ Musher博士に通される手術に出席しました、そして、私はユニークな番号がついているチップを順当に注射されました。私は、現在多分、このようにタグを付けられる英国(素晴らしい牛とショーダックスフント以外の)の唯一の生きている生きものであるでしょう。私には、私についてブレードランナーのヒントがあります:半分-人、半分-送信機。





? ヘンリーポーターとニールファーガソンの映画(Suspect Nation)は、明日の午後9時にMore4の上で見られることができます.