Ron Paul

More Security Theater from the UN

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Via the National Consumer Coalition's Privacy Group comes this report, with many useful links, on the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization's plan to harmonize all the world's passports with facial recognition biometric identifiers. An excerpt:

Were a fingerprint the chosen biometric identifier, the biometric on the card could be compared to the passport holder's finger at border check, obviating the need for an international biometric database. But such a privacy-protecting commonsense arrangement is less feasible with facial recognition as the chosen biometric. And indeed, Privacy International reports that the ICAO scheme will indeed "result in a distributed international identification database on all passport holders."

….determined malefactors and/or "evildoers" can be expected to game the system. A recent General Accounting Office report provided a handful of the many examples of poor security practices the federal government uses in protecting SSNs. The federal government, foreign governments and international agencies cannot be expected to keep the digital data much more secure.

Congressman Ron Paul has emphasized the point that, "transformation of the Social Security number into a de facto uniform identifier . . . facilitates the crime of identity theft." And redundant digital databases spanning the globe will assuredly facilitate such identity theft on a grander scale, especially when taken in tandem with RFID chips implanted in the passports. All an identity thief needs is an RFID reader and the encryption algorithm (both of which will be distributed to machines all over the world) to capture someone's data (essentially, a really long number as an identifier) and begin to create a false 'secure' document.

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  1. I’m really surprised that there’s not some serious screaming going on here about this. It features two or three really major issues, and nobody’s really saying anything about it.

    So here’s a couple things.

    1. A non-U.S. group is going to, in effect, set U.S. security policy for travelers. Think you don’t like Washington bureaucrats now? Try Brussels bureaucrats.

    2. The ICAO, while chartered under UN auspices, isn’t a government-to-government agency exclusively. It’s like similar organizations dealing with the sea or space – the stakeholders have a big say in how things come out. Or in other words, if you go to enough boring meetings in Rangoon, you get to shape policy. This fact is not lost on non-profits (oooh, really unaccountable) and industry groups (who don’t mind paying a lawyer $300/hour to just sit and smile. Until it’s time to slip some language in the new regulation). Fancy getting laws handed down from an evil alliance of Bill Gates and United Way? That’s what happens with these quasi-UN groups. Howdya think we got Kyoto?

    3. Who came up with this facial recognition software idea? The stuff isn’t mature yet and may not be for a long, long time. “If you build it they will come” is a great idea in the movie, but not in government contracting. Before you can worry about the civil liberties / security balance, you really need to know that your technology will work – otherwise the “balance” you achieve at the expense of civil lbierties is illusory – all you’ve done is give up some liberties for null gain.

    4. When these groups say they “received great stakeholder input and are altering the programs to meet the objections”, that translates into English as “somebody bitched about the cost/practicality/civil liberties impact, so we took their comments under advisement, and didn’t tell them where the next meeting would be held, or when. That should fix it; we won’t hear any more objections from them. Splitters.”

    5. ICAO is utterly incapable of getting ahead of the curve, as are most government and quasi-government bodies attempting to leverage technology for enhanced security. RFID – great idea, if you do it right; a privacy nightmare if you don’t; and a guaranteed public backlash if you don’t articulate publicly and transparently what you are up to. This isn’t ICAO’s fault – it’s just that government and quasi-governmental bodies aren’t very smart about dealing with humans. It’s their nature. But that doesn’t make the facts on the ground any better.

  2. Well said Stephen. I didn’t like a single bit of this proposal and you summarized my misgivings a lot better than I could have.

  3. “facial recognition biometric identifiers”

    Good thing we’re not in a terrorist war with Japan, because, you know, they all look alike to us.

  4. Isn’t the person in front of you, you know, the person in front of you? Something’s gotten lost in the high tech flurry.

    The problem is believing identification instead in the first place. If you carry enough identification, you can prove you are not you.

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