Would you trust the government with this?
Friday, 13 December 2019
By Bernd Struben
It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas.
At least it is around Port Phillip Publishing’s HQ here in Albert Park.
The office Christmas tree is lit up. And the office staff — normally in casual dress — are looking mighty spiffy.
I flew out to Melbourne from Adelaide on Wednesday to attend some long overdue in-person meetings. And to attend today’s annual office Christmas party.
Hence my colleagues’ spiffy attire.
Between the meetings and the pending party I’ll keep my bit short today.
Instead I want to share an excerpt from this week’s Revolutionary Tech Investor. In it Sam Volkering discusses the positives and negatives of the creeping spread of facial recognition technology with Port Phillip Publishing’s founder, Dan Denning.
But first, a look at the markets…
Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 220.75 points, or 0.79%.
The S&P 500 closed up 26.94 points, or 0.86%.
In Europe the Euro Stoxx 50 index closed up 18.90 points, or 0.50%. Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 gained 0.70%, and Germany’s DAX closed up 74.90 points, or 0.57%.
In early morning trade in Asian markets Japan’s Nikkei 225 is up 32.95 points, or 0.14%. China’s CSI 300 is down 0.30%.
The S&P/ASX 200 is up 25.10 points, or 0.37%.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil is US$59.18per barrel. Brent crude is US$64.52 per barrel.
Turning to gold, the yellow metal is trading for US$1,469.75 (AU$2,119.32) per troy ounce. Silver is US$16.94 (AU$24.43) per troy ounce.
One bitcoin is worth US$7,192.39.
The Aussie dollar is worth 68.70 US cents.
That’s all from me today. Now over to Sam Volkering.
Have You Been Segregated at the Airport?
Sam Volkering, Editor, Revolutionary Tech Investor
I was having a chat last week with the former publisher at Port Phillip Publishing and Southbank Research, and now the co-author of The Bonner-Denning Letter, the man himself, Dan Denning.
As usual we got onto all things ‘surveillance state’. I was explaining how excited I was recently to use the e-gates at the airport in the UK to pass through customs. He too acknowledged they were far quicker to get through than the old, queue up, wait, wait, wait…wait, see a customs official then get through system we were both used to.
But then we also got onto the worrying part about facial recognition software and where that data went.
We’re not stupid, the reason those e-gates work is because they match the photo on your passport, to your face and their existing data. If anything doesn’t match up, you get ushered over to one of the mere humans on the counters.
There’s a few problems with all this. For one, if you wear glasses but don’t have them on in your passport, don’t expect to get through. Another problem, if you do get ushered over to a human, good chance they won’t be as effective as the machines. That’s not great for keeping out terrorists (extreme example, I know).
The third problem is multi-faceted. You see, the data about you that’s being collected is used to create a picture of you. It’s matched with other data points that prove (or disprove) who you are.
But have you used theses e-gates recently? If so, have you noticed anything about them?
We did. And we jokingly, but maybe appropriately, decided to give them the moniker, segr-e-gates.
Maybe we’re looking too much into it. But the countries that are allowed to use the e-gates are all ‘friendly’ neighbour states, the UK, EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and the US. Can’t recall seeing the Sierra Leone flag on the e-gates. China definitely isn’t on there. Neither is Russia. There’s no Brazil. And definitely not a UAE flag in sight.
But we don’t expect this segr-e-gate business to last much longer.
You see, when the right kind of AI is deployed into the smart gates, they will be far greater and more accurate at detecting and identifying people than humans ever were. They will take more data points, assess them faster, be better at spotting counterfeit documents and cross referencing all of that against you as a traveller.
In fact, soon enough there will be two sections of the customs control. The first ‘layer’, which is the e-gate analysis, and the second layer, which is the detainment centre. Everyone makes it through the first layer — not everyone makes it through the second.
Perhaps even more worrying is where and how that data gets stored, who has access to it and where it’s used after you’ve crossed the boundary and properly entered the country.
The real question that we should ask is: What right does the government have to your biometric data? And what experience and credibility do they have in protecting and securing that data?
You ask us, their track record is poor. And they’ve got form when it comes to wanting access to your data without your consent. Just reference things like the 2018 amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.
There is a way around this. And it’s via data identifiers using encrypted hashes. Or in a simpler way, using blockchain technology to create a universal identity to protect your identity.
The idea is relatively simple. You create a digital identity and go through necessary processes to prove who you are. That gives you a unique identifier that can be cross checked to information on a blockchain that proves you are you. The data can’t be changed, it’s permanently recorded on a blockchain.
But you then have a personal universal identity for life. That’s you and only you. It’s more secure than any passport document ever will be.
Now, let’s say you want to enter a country. Rather than facial recognition or biometric scanning, you simply open your ‘ID wallet’ using your secure private key that shows to the requester that you’ve got the private key to unlock that wallet address and verify who you are, that data is checked with the data on the blockchain to either confirm or deny you.
Therefore, data isn’t stored on some government server, allowing it to become a security threat. It can’t be hacked and stolen and used by someone else as the only information is a public identifier — which, without a private key becomes useless.
This becomes like a single universal data wallet that you can use for all kinds of identity verification purposes. But you never have to worry about that data existing in places where it can be compromised or shared without authority, because it exists on a public, decentralised blockchain and can only be unlocked with the private key.
This is the kind of world that we are heading towards, and that progressive organisations are trying to solve and build out for our future.