Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Brits increasing citizen surveillance?

Wired reports that the U.K. is experimenting with new automobile license plates with embedded microchips that broadcast their identity hundreds of feet around and to make it possible to track the movements of individual cars.
Proponents argue that making such RFID tags mandatory and ubiquitous is a logical move to counter the threat of terrorists using the roadways, and that it will scoop up insurance and registration scofflaws in the process.
Already, electronic toll-passes in the U.S. are being used for other purposes (as for monitoring traffic flow on highways), so there's no telling what uses law enforcement (or private sector geniuses) could come up with for this kind of data.
Civil libertarians don't object to an RFID automatic toll-collection system that "anonymizes" vehicles in databases once a transaction is completed. But they doubt the government -- given its thirst for intelligence -- will use such privacy-protection measures. From a law-enforcement perspective, "there is no reason to have privacy for anything," said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Unnerving. Luckily, these are unlikely to jump the pond soon, because they cost 10x more than regular plates, which would probably cause nationwide outrage more quickly than the privacy concerns . . .

(via Follow Me Here)

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