April 30, 2011
Listen to the show here
Notes from the AxXiom for Liberty radio show aired April 29, 2011
We spoke with two Biometric critics, David Moss from the UK and Mark Lerner from the US.
**We were to post a link here for those who wanted to submit a recommendation on behalf of Mark Lerner to the organizers of the Privacy conference to be held in DC this summer. He has received the support he needed and it is now in the hands of the sponsors-Thanks to all!**
The show was focused on the failures and unworkability of biometric identification. The question that hangs over the discussion is Why? If the technology is not working as promised (and it is decidedly not!) and given the expense why do governments across the globe seem determined to utilize it?
We discussed the the influence of the biometrics industry, the desire of governments to keep close tabs on the people (the word inventory comes to mind) and the perceived need of government to prevent or control chaos. The role of data sharing, e government and Transformational government which relies on computerized records was touched upon as well.
Find sourcing, notes, and my commentary below.
Biometrics are not working as advertised.
David Moss has nearly 33 years experience in IT and has spent over eight years researching and campaigning against the UK Home Office’s biometric ID card scheme.
UK Identity Cards-Wiki
David mentioned a European Commission initiative called “Project STORK”
STORK requires the national systems of several countries to be interoperable.
EU/UK: EU pilot to boost compatibility of eID kicks off in the UK, 15 October 2007
The ultimate goal of the STORK project is to implement an EU-wide interoperable system for the recognition and authentication of eIDs [electronic identities] that will enable businesses, citizens and government employees to use their national eIDs in any Member State. Once established, this would significantly facilitate migration between Member States, allowing easy access to a variety of eGovernment services including, for example, social security, medical prescriptions and pension payments. It could also ease cross-border student enrolment in colleges …
The UK’s Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is leading the pilot project, in close co-operation with the Government Gateway, the UK’s centralised registration service. “It is about the eventual pan-European recognition of electronic IDs,” noted an IPS spokesperson.
David writes; HMRC lost two discs containing the personal details of 25 million people. That exposes 25 million people to the threat of fraud. Given which, the question arises whether the government should proceed with the ID cards scheme — creating yet another database just increases the risk of losing data and could lead to more fraud.
In 2009 David Moss posed this question to the public;
“If our last two prime ministers are to be believed, and our last five home secretaries, the solution to all the problems of crime detection, counter-terrorism and the delivery of efficient public services is … biometrics. They’re certainly labelling our money into biometrics. But no one ever asks, do biometrics work?”
As of late David Moss has been focused on India’s Unique Identification (UID) project that endeavors to biometrically identify and number 1.2 billion of India’s people. David Moss is a biometric skeptic and for good reason.
David Moss’s website is http://dematerialisedid.com/
The biometric delusion
Optimism beats evidence in the drive to fingerprint the world
By David Moss •
Posted 14th August 2009 12:11 GMT
Suppose that there were 60 million UK ID cardholders. To prove that each person is represented by a unique electronic identity on the population register, each biometric would have to be compared with all the rest. That would involve making 1.8 x 1015 comparisons.
Suppose further that the false match rate for biometrics based on either facial geometry or fingerprints was one in a million (1 x 10-6). It isn’t. It’s worse than that. But suppose that it was that good, then there would be 1.8 x 109 false matches for IPS to check.
It is not feasible for IPS to check 1.8 billion false matches. It is therefore not feasible for these biometrics to do their identification job.
David Moss’ eye opening research paper on India’s Unique Id Project;
In reading about India’s ID project, I found some aspects of the program very disturbing.
The program is being pitched as a way to help the poor to better access the services they need.
Nilekani maintains that the main purpose of the UID project is to empower the vast numbers of excluded Indians. “For the poor this is a huge benefit because they have no identities, no birth certificates, degree certificates, driver’s licences, passports or even addresses.” link
But when you read further into the aims of the project, you wonder if maybe having no identity might be preferable.
Fears of Privacy Loss Pursue Ambitious ID Project
Monday 06 September 2010
New Delhi – Fears about loss of privacy are being voiced as India gears up to launch an ambitious scheme to biometrically identify and number each of its 1.2 billion inhabitants.
In September, officials from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), armed with fingerprinting machines, iris scanners and cameras hooked to laptops, will fan out across the towns and villages of southern Andhra Pradesh state in the first phase of the project whose aim is to give every Indian a lifelong Unique ID (UID) number.
[. . .]According to Nilekani, the UID will most benefit India’s poor who, because they lack identity documentation, are ignored by service providers.
The program is said to be voluntary, but is it really?
At the Aug. 25 meeting, Ramanthan said that while enrolling with the UIDAI may be voluntary, other agencies and service providers might require a UID number in order to transact business. Indeed, the UIDAI has already signed agreements with banks, state governments and hospital chains which will allow them to ask customers for UIDs. (Emphasis mine)
India’s ID program could compromise freedoms to buy, sell or travel.
Ramanathan said that, taken to its logical limit, the UID project will make it impossible, in a couple of years, for an ordinary citizen to undertake a simple task such as travelling within the country without a UID number. (Emphasis mine)
The UIDAI will work with the National Population Register (NPR). . . And as a government website says: “Certain information collected under the NPR will be published in the local areas for public scrutiny and invitation of objections.”
If you ask me, this ID system provides citizens with “safety” by way of surveillance and promises the governments of India a more compliant population.
From IPS News via AlterNet;
But things begin to look ominous when seen in the context of the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), the setting up of which home minister P. Chidambaram announced in February as part of his response to a major terrorist attack. Chidambaram said NATGRID would tap into 21 sets of databases that will be networked to achieve “quick, seamless and secure access to desired information for intelligence and enforcement agencies.” He added that NATGRID will “identify those who must be watched, investigated, disabled and neutralised.” (Emphasis mine)
Chidambaram said NATGRID would tap into 21 sets of databases that will be networked to achieve “quick, seamless and secure access to desired information for intelligence and enforcement agencies.” He added that NATGRID will “identify those who must be watched, investigated, disabled and neutralised.”
Natgrid, the brainchild of Home Minister P Chidambaram, is based on the US model.(Emphasis mine) It will integrate the existing 21 databases with Central and state government agencies and other organisations in the public and private sector such as banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges, airlines, railways, telecom service providers, chemical vendors, etc. LINK
The telecom and internet service providers will be mandated by regulations to compulsorily link up their databases with NATGRID. The databases so far identified for being linked in the grid include those of rail and air travel, phone calls, bank accounts, credit card transactions, passport and visa records, PAN cards, land and property records, automobile ownership and driving licences. Link
In the US 911 is cited as the justification for the massive restructuring of our national security apparatus and policy, in India it is the attacks in Mumbai.
The 26/11 attacks in Mumbai changed the paradigm of what was till then considered to be internal security, demonstrating clearly to the government that the battle lines have been re-drawn. [ . . .]Thus, any response to tackle threats emanating from terrorism would not be effective if we continued to follow the old conventional strategies; instead our response must involve a change of mindset, security doctrines and a new counter-terror framework. Link
India’s worsening security situation excites global defence firms
BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, sees a number of business opportunities, relating to the country’s nascent National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) programmes.
“We have been talking to the ministry of home affairs a great deal on the grid programmes, and feel there is an obvious opportunity there,” Guy Douglas, spokesman for BAE India, said. The Natgrid is a giant database of comprehensive intelligence reports, designed to collate information collected from phones and income tax records, along with airport and immigration details of individuals.
According to Mr Douglas, BAE’s subsidiary Detica, which specialises in collecting, managing and exploiting information that could lead to actionable intelligence, could be harnessed for India’s intelligence community. LINK
More about NATGRID
Read about the Global Intelligence Grid
In my opinion, no matter how you slice it, this is the reason governments want biometric identification systems so badly.
The US Department of Defense states:
“Biometrics technologies have the unique potential to provide the Department with the capability to take away an adversary’s anonymity”
Unfortunately the “biometrics technologies” that the DoD is referring to are not applied in an as needed fashion. These technologies will/must apply to all of us, all of the time. In other words it isn’t just the “bad guys” who will have their privacy and freedom stripped away from them-it is each and every one of us.
“The biometrics science and technology program addresses the technology gaps that preclude our ability to quickly and accurately identify anonymous individuals who threaten our interests, in whatever domain they operate.”
Source-2010 Office of Secretary Of Defense RDT&E Budget Item Justification
Why do I read “our interests” to be more inclusive of the interests of the government and not necessarily inclusive of the people? Can it be that so much of Homeland Security and national security efforts in general seem to be directed at rather than protective of the people of this country?
One thing I am deeply resentful of is the wholehearted embracing by our government of the new paradigm of security that emphasizes the power of prediction and preemptive policing techniques that are in opposition to the legal and natural rights of the citizens. It shatters the very unity our country needs the most during times of uncertainty. I am concerned that this “new paradigm” is creating an environment of suspicion and fear between the authorities and the people. It seems to me that the implications of such mistrust and even fear negates any gains that such policies may promise to government.
The Price of Security
“The desire for security, while in itself natural and legitimate, can become an obsession which ultimately must be paid for by the loss of freedom and human dignity—whether people realize it or not.
In the end, it is clear that whoever is prepared to pay this price is left neither with freedom and dignity nor with security, for there can be no security without freedom and protection from arbitrary power.
To this exorbitant price must be added another . . . namely, the steady diminution of the value of money. Surely, every single one of us must then realize that security is one of those things which recede further and further away the more unrestrainedly and violently we desire it.”
—Wilhelm Röpke, A Humane Economy
We touched upon the subject of “Transformational Government” which I understand to be in line with what is more commonly referred to as the Reinvention of Government in the US.
From Wikipedia- Transformational Government is a term which describes the use of computer-based information and communications technologies (ICT) to enable radical improvement to the delivery of public services. The term is commonly used to describe a government reform strategy which aims to avoid the limitations which have come to be seen as associated with a traditional e-Government strategy.
During the last two decades, governments around the world have invested in ICT with the aim of increasing the quality and decreasing the cost of public services. But over that time, as even the least developed countries have moved to websites, e-services and e-Government strategies, it has become increasingly clear that e-Government has not delivered all the benefits that were hoped for it. One study found that 35% of e-government projects in developing countries resulted in total failures; and that 50% were partial failures.Read more
by David Moss
Wouldn’t it be better if (WIBBI) government departments shared data? Public services could then be more effective. And cheaper. And customised, or tailored, to the individual.
It’s a seductive WIBBI. Sharing sounds like the sort of thing pleasant communities do. The public is always a deserving recipient. Service is a humble and dedicated vocation. If the service offers good value for money, so much the better. Recognising each individual’s unique requirements squares the circle – a universal service which is at the same time trained with laser precision on the particular.
Right now we are being treated to a massive marketing campaign meant to capitalize on our collective frustration with the size of government. Those who have been watching our government closely over the years will recognize this rhetoric as very similar to the rhetoric of the 90’s.
President Bill Clinton in 1995 declared in his State of the Union address that “The era of big government is over.”
Hardly true, (Read “The Clinton Era by The Numbers”) but Clinton was following up on his earlier promises to “Reinvent Government ” that began with a report issued by the National Performance Review, From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less, in 1993.
Most people regarded the Reinvention of Government as an initiative to downsize the bloated bureaucracy. Reinvention, as understood by most, was supposed to make the government work better and cost less.
Many who supported the idea of whacking back government to a more sensible size express dismay that by this yardstick, the reinvention initiatives have failed miserably if the real goal was to downsize government.
The Clinton administration’s reinventing government campaign grew directly out of David Osborne and Ted Gaebler’s 1992 best seller, Reinventing Government. Osborne, a writer and consultant, teamed with Gaebler, a former city manager and consultant, to argue that “entrepreneurial” government offered government its most productive future. http://www.brookings.edu/gs/cpm/government.pdf
[. . .]NPR started its work in April 1993 with an inspiring set of principles and a clear vision of what it wanted to accomplish. The main objective was to create a government that works better and costs less by empowering employees to put customers first, cutting the red tape that holds back employees, and cutting back to basics.”
Consider this statement (from the NPR) very carefully.
“Strategically, the Vice President chose to focus efforts on how the government works, not on what it should be doing.”
A common complaint about the whole “reinvention of government” plan is that the the reinvention guru’s keep moving the goalposts. After much research, I have come to believe they aren’t moving the goalposts at all-they have purposely obscured what the true goals of reinventing government really are and I think that this omission is an entirely a strategic one. Amazingly the Reinvention gurus like David Osbourne have managed to sell the concept without openly revealing the product. The marketers purposefully focus on how government does what it does without ever addressing the fundamental issue of what it is government is supposed to do. This may the reason that reinventing government has not resulted in downsizing government.
The sum of good government to Thomas Jefferson was one “which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned”
One thing that continues to unnerve me after doing some research into the Reinvention of Government is to hear well intentioned officials repeating the platitudes of Reinvention gurus like David Osbourne. The effort to reinvent government has been led from the beginning by organizations with a pronounced ideology and one that most officials that are currently involved with the continuation of these efforts would not profess to ascribe to.
Here’s a couple of blurbs that give a glimpse into the thinking behind the front line rhetoric of making government more efficient;
The Democratic Leadership Council, and its affiliated think tank the Progressive Policy Institute, have been catalysts for modernizing politics and government.
From their political analysis and policy innovations has emerged a progressive alternative to the worn-out dogmas of traditional liberalism and conservatism.
The core principles and ideas of this “Third Way” movement are set forth in The New Progressive Declaration: A Political Philosophy for the Information Age. (emphasis mine)
On Sunday, April 25, 1999, the President Clinton and the DLC hosted a historic roundtable discussion, The Third Way: Progressive Governance for the 21st Century, with five world leaders including British PM Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Dutch PM Wim Kok, and Italian PM Massimo D’Alema, the First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and DLC President Al From.
21st Century Approach
“… the structure of democracy needs new scaffolding–a new concept of how decisions are made, a new approach to the role of leadership and new methods and techniques to build shared vision….
“It assumes that there is a need to rethink what it means to be a ‘civil society’ and that the concept of the “common good ” must be more than an aggregation of individual rights…
“Any 21st Century approach to democracy will need a flexible framework in which diverse people can dialogue and not debate; in which systemic thinking replaces a linear project mentality….”
Consensus Democracy: A New Approach to 21st Century Governance
More attention will be given to examining the ideological aspect of this “movement” in more detail in future AxXiom for Liberty shows and on this blog.
One last thought;
David Osborne, co-author of the book that started the revolution of reinvention in government writes;
“Just as Columbus never knew he had come upon a new continent, many of today’s pioneers—from governors to city managers, teachers to social workers—do not understand the global significance of what they are doing.”
We can bet that this much is true.
David Moss makes a very important point in this next article entitled ‘So what’s new?’
The thesis is;
We do not live in a new world. We live in the same world we have always lived in.
Mr Brown believes this is a new world. He says so in his speech. 34 times:
… a new chapter in our country’s story of liberty … new issues of terrorism and security … new frontiers in both our lives and our liberties … new challenges … new rights for the public expression of dissent … new freedoms that guarantee the independence of non-governmental organisations … new rights to access public information … new rights against arbitrary intrusion … new technology … new rights to protect your private information … new provision for independent judicial scrutiny and open parliamentary oversight … Renewing for our time our commitment to freedom … a new British constitutional settlement for our generation … the new tests of our time … we meet these tests not by abandoning principles of liberty but by giving them new life … a new generation … new challenges … new measures … the new rules … the new rules … New rules … What is new about 21st century ideas of privacy … new powers of access to information … new opportunities to use biometrics … the opportunities of new technology … a new and imaginative approach to accountability … new laptop computers … new powers … the new information age … new threats to our security … a new British Bill of Rights and Duties … a new chapter in the British story of liberty …
To anyone of a conservative bent, all these references to novelty are suspicious and need to be viewed with scepticism. We do not live in a new world. We live in the same world we have always lived in.
Even the sanctity of liberty can be trumped by the super-sanctity of security. He’s not an equality man (Labour). He’s not a liberty man (Liberal). He’s a security man (Raytheon). And he’s a long way down that “authoritarian path”.
Also discussed was Capgemini and a program called “ContactPoint” in the UK
What is Capgemini?
Capgemini is a global consulting and information technology firm, with a seasoned approach working collaboratively with many federal, state and local government agencies to help address fiscal challenges and improve the efficiency and quality of IT services delivered to citizens. We work with the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture, as well as multiple state and municipal tax, social welfare, criminal justice and public health departments.
Capgemini is a limited partner with QinetiQ, the global defense technology company: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qinetiq
What is Contact Point?
ContactPoint is an online database which contains basic information about every child and young person in England from birth to their 18th birthday. Read more
Capgemini as it relates to Oklahoma (Research provided by OK-SAFE)
On November 1, 2010 OK-SAFE filed an Open Records request to the Office of State Finance, seeking more detailed information about the state’s contract with Capgemini, the global consulting, technology, and outsourcing firm, headquartered in Paris, France. Read more about the open records request and findings here
Also see Reality Check: Political Doublespeak Contract with Capgemini a power point presentation by OK-SAFE
Capgemini: Consulting, Technology and Outsourcing. Outsourcing what?
In 2009 the OK Republican-led legislature created the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO), a new cabinet position appointed by the Governor. (HB 1170)
Oklahoma’s new CIO is Alex Pettit, officed in the Office of State Finance.
The OK CIO has signed a $1 million (actually $999,100) contract with a global company named Capgemini, specializing in Consulting, Technology, and Outsourcing, to perform an assessment of the state’s entire IT systems.
With several divisions worldwide, including the UK, India, Australia, and the US, Capgemini’s main headquarters are in Paris, France. (Just like Safran?)
Capgemini has two subcontractors: BDNA Corp. (The IT Genome Project) and Roraima Consulting, Inc. (out of Jamaica, NY)
There are growing concerns about this contract and the possible direction Oklahoma could be heading.
My previous notes on Capgemini can be found here
Bolton kick-starts child database pilot
The government’s controversial plan to keep a file on every child in England has received a boost after an NHS trust reversed its decision to withhold information about local children from social services.
The board of Bolton primary care trust (PCT) decided last night that they had the statutory power to put the name, address, date of birth and gender of every child on its records onto a database accessible to other agencies.
The decision means that Bolton Unlimited, one of 10 information, referral and tracking (IRT) pilots set up to improve information sharing, will be able to start building a comprehensive database on all 60,000-70,000 children in the area.
Legal experts had previously warned that the proposal in the children’s green paper to establish local databases on all children – collating information held by councils, the health service and the police – would breach data protection and privacy laws.
Capgemini captures $400M UK database deal
Capgemini UK plc has won a three-year, $400 million contract from the United Kingdom’s Education and Skills Department to design a national database covering all 11 million children in England. http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2006/10/18/capgemini-captures-400m-uk-database-deal.aspx
The government acknowledges the risks by instituting protocols to “shield” details of celebrity and vulnerable children. But all children are potentially vulnerable to misuse of information, and the potential for this is enormous. Evidence presented last year to the management board of the Leeds NHS Trust showed that in one month the 14,000 staff logged 70,000 incidents of inappropriate access. On the basis of these figures, misuse of ContactPoint could run to 1,650,000 incidents a month. Is this going to protect children?
On Tuesday June 1st, 2010 the Department for Education (the renamed Department for Children, Schools and Families) issued the following – on behalf of Sarah Teather (Lib-Dem and Minister for Children and Families) – to members of the Information Sharing Advisory Group, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, and suppliers of case management systems.
We [the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government] are scrapping ContactPoint. We will develop better ways of keeping children safe. The investment made won’t be wasted because we can use the technical expertise we’ve acquired to protect those children most in need. But the idea of a single national IT database for all children has gone for good.
The communiqué from the Department for Education contained no other information on what future arrangements might look like nor any indicative timescale for the ‘scrapping’ of ContactPoint.
The Revolving Door that Never Stops Turning
by Mark Lerner, co founder of the Constitutional Alliance
Six years ago I started speaking out about a small company in Massachusetts called Viisage Technology. Not many people paid attention to what I had to say because the company was only a $50 million company. After a few quick steps that would rival anything you might find on any of the reality dancing shows on television Viisage has morphed into a billion dollar plus company. I can provide a number of reasons you should care about L-1 Identity Solutions, the company Viisage Technology transformed into. I will start by mentioning that Louis Freeh (former Director of the FBI), Admiral Loy (former head of the Transportation Security Agency), George Tenet (former Director of the CIA), Frank Moss (former program manager for the State Department’s E-Passport program, and many others who previously held key positions in the federal government all joined Viisage/L-1 as members of the Board of Directors or as paid employees of Viisage/L-1.
L-1, writes Mark Lerner, dominates the state driver’s license business. L-1 also produces all passport cards, involved in the production of all passports, provides identification documents for the Department of Defense and has contracts with nearly every intelligence agency in our government. To a large extent it is fair to say that your personal information is L-1’s information. L-1 is the same company that thinks our political party affiliation should be on our driver’s license along with our race. L-1 has a long history starting with its taking over Viisage Technology. It was a great sleight of hand, Viisage morphing into L-1 while Viisage was under investigation by our government.
[. . .]L-1 is being sold to two European companies. One of the companies is buying the division of L-1 that has contracts with nearly every intelligence agency in the United States government. The biometric and document credential divisions are being sold to a French company named Safran. Just think about how happy you can feel now knowing that your personal information including your social security number and biometric information (fingerprints, Iris scans and digital facial images) may soon be available to a French company. The federal government must sign off on the deal before the deal can be sealed. All this brings us back to the topic of the revolving door that exists between government and corporations.
Our former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the honorable Michael Chertoff certainly did not take long to walk through the revolving door. Last year, 2009 Mr. Chertoff was the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; this year, 2010 he is a strategic advisor to the French company Safran. (Emphasis mine)
Read the entire articleThe Revolving Door that Never Stops Turning
So, will L1 be permitted to sell to Safran? It is a private corporation right? This is just one problem that we encounter when these corporations get so cozy with government-with L1goes contracts with nearly every state in the country for our driver’s license. L-1 also provides welfare identification cards as well as other ID documents to states and tens of millions of dollars in contracts with the Department of Homeland Security.
The latest news;
L-1 Identity Solutions Reports Meaningful Progress with CFIUS; Parties Refile CFIUS Notification for Additional Time to Negotiate Definitive Mitigation Agreement