Current Shamrock Missive

From the Publisher's Desk
June 2008

"Privacy is a pretty abstract concept. Like our health, it's something we tend not to think about until we lose it -- and then discover that our lives have been very unpleasantly, and perhaps irretrievably, altered."
- George Radwanski
Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Coming Soon To An Airport Near You!

The below article from the Daily Mail clearly reveals the ever encroaching threat to our privacy is never ending. What's in store for us over the next few years? Read on dear reader, then ask yourself, what are you going to do about it?

Airline passengers are to undergo facial scans at a British airport for the first time.

In a trial set for this summer, hi-tech gates will scan travellers' faces and compare the image with their biometric passport.

Border security officials behind the scheme claim it will transform passengers' experience of airport security and help ease congestion.

They are convinced that the scanners are more reliable and better at preventing ID fraud than humans checking paperwork.

Identity check: Officials of the scheme say it will transform airport security and help ease congestion. But critics claim it is a 'laughable, unproven' technology

But critics have attacked the plan, which they claim is based on 'laughable, unproven technology' that could cause innocent passengers even further delays.

There is also concern that travellers may react badly to being rejected at an automated gate.

The plan will initially only apply to British and EU citizens carrying new biometric passports.

While it is not yet known how many airports will take part, if the pilot scheme is a success the technology will be rolled out nationwide.

One potential problem is that the technology will err on the side of caution of 'false negatives' - innocent passengers who are not cleared because the machines cannot recognise them.

They may, instead, be sent to another queue or staff may be authorised to override the gates.

Details of the scheme emerged earlier this week at a London conference attended by international biometrics experts, border control civil servants, and the police.

During one session, Gary Murphy, head of operational design and development for the UK Border Agency, said: "We think a machine can do a better job [than manned passport inspections]. What will the public reaction be? Will they use it? We need to test and see how people react and how they deal with rejection.'

He claimed that in previous trials of iris recognition, the failure rate was around 3 to 5 per cent, although some were passengers who were not enrolled but jumped into the queue.

But Gus Hosein, a specialist at the London School of Economics in the interplay between technology and society, said: 'It's a laughable technology. U.S. police at the SuperBowl had to turn it off within three days because it was throwing up so many false positives.

'The computer couldn't even recognise gender. It's not that it could wrongly match someone as a terrorist, but that it won't match them with their image. A human can make assumptions, a computer can't.'

Phil Booth, of the No2Id Campaign, said: 'Someone is extremely optimistic. The technology is just not there.

'The last time I spoke to anyone in the facial recognition field they said the best systems were only operating at about a 40 per cent success rate in a real time situation.

'I am flabbergasted they consider doing this at a time when there are so many measures making it difficult for passengers.'

Home Office Minister Liam Byrne said: 'Britain's border security is now among the toughest in the world and tougher checks do take time, but we don't want long waits.

'So the UK Borders Agency will soon be testing new automatic gates for British and European Economic Area citizens.

'We will test them this year and, if they work, put them at all key ports and airports.'

Between eight million and ten million biometric passports have been issued since their introduction in 2006. Non-biometric passports will not be valid after 2016.

Trials of iris recognition technology at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester were temporarily shelved in November.

If iris scans are ditched from the Government's controversial �5.4billion ID cards project, it could mean only two biometrics would be used to confirm a person's identity - a facial scan and fingerprints.

Last month, fingerprint scanning at Heathrow's Terminal 5 were postponed before it started amid concern from the Information Commissioner's Office about what would happen to the data.

See you next issue


"The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion."
- Edmund Burke, 1784

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