[LINK] Airport to tag passengers

Jan Whitaker jwhit at melbpc.org.au
Sat Oct 21 11:09:11 AEST 2006

>>>>>"œIn a society based on anarchy, it is 
>>>>>possible to imagine anything. But we live in 
>>>>>a civilised society, in which both common 
>>>>>sense and the rule of law prevail." - 
>>>>>Interview from Professor Peter Cole April 8 2004. (RFID Physicists)
>>>>This is an apparently meaningless truism. You may to be using it to
>>>>imply that NOT accepting a "balance" between business interests and
>>>>privacy rights would be tantamount to anarchy. If not, what the heck DO
>>>>you mean?
>>>What he means is:
>>>In the normal mode of operation of extreme 
>>>privacy advocates is to use miss-information 
>>>about the capability of technologies, and to 
>>>come up with extreme examples of how privacy 
>>>can be invaded, which would only be plausible in a world based on anarchy.

(bcc: to Professor Cole)

I'm on a panel with Professor Cole and asked him 
about this statement. He graciously sent me the 
full transcript of the source of the quote, which 
was an ABC Background Briefing interview on the 
basics of RFID, very short and to the point. Note 
that it was in 2004. I believe that Geoff has 
been a bit loose with the meaning of the 
statement as it appears in the section where 
concerns about RFID are raised as based on an 
Ontario Privacy Commission Report, hardly 
'extreme privacy advocates', but public servants 
tasked with analysing implications of social 
change that affect the area of privacy and 
enforcing them. Professor Cole states a few times 
in the interview that the use of regulation and 
the rule of law are important to make the new 
approaches acceptable to the public.

He bases his positive acceptance of RFID on an assumption:
"But they all have a common feature that no one 
who does not want one will be given an RFID tag. "

I think that is a pretty simple concept - choice 
to 'participate'. However, the arguments that 
have appeared on link recently have not put that 
as a basic tenet at all, particularly when it 
comes to balance. It does come out at times, 
particularly with regard to 'killing' or removing 
the chips. BUT as we've also discussed, things 
work differently in different domains. Some RFID 
applications are non-negotiable or the 
transaction/purpose/benefit isn't possible 
(tollways, transport cards, embedding in medical 
devices). So IMO, there is a strong need to 
consider not just the retail applications of RFID 
as is happening in the EPC and GS1 codes, but to 
widen the regulation/code discussion to either 
more domains where choice is not possible, or to 
develop a generic framework of regulation (law?) 
to deal with these new things like tagging passengers.

Another point in Professor Cole's interview at 
the time in 2004 is that using RFID for tracking 
wasn't high on the agenda. Times have changed. 
The prisoner example, the school children 
example, others? have shown that 
tracking/surveillance is exactly possible and 
desired by some groups. Even train ticketing that 
is coming to Melbourne will have a tracking 
capability because the cards I don't think will 
be anonymous because of the linkage to some type 
of bank account. And certainly those who have 
special discounts like students or elderly or on 
health cards will lose their anonymity of travel 
through this new system because of the eligibility elements.

These new developments provide a strong reason 
for establishing a better regulatory framework at 
the same time these applications are being 
deployed if they can't be done in advance. If the 
developers of the systems want to avoid the 
anarchy and assume it is only in anarchy that 
dangers lurk, then they should be advancing the 
need for properly considered regulation and stop 
being defensive when those of us who do think 
about these things want to have them. The 
argument of 'cost to business' can't hold the 
trump card. Business and the technology companies can NOT have it both ways.

Also from the interview: "We shape our own future."

PS: Professor Cole, I hope I've represented your 
centrist position reasonably. :-)

Jan Whitaker
JLWhitaker Associates, Melbourne Victoria
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com
personal: http://www.janwhitaker.com/personal/
commentary: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/

'Seed planting is often the most important step. 
Without the seed, there is no plant.' - JW, April 2005
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