Monday, July 24, 2006

Public Telephone Cards

An interesting snippet from the Independent newspaper:

Opus Dei financier is found dismembered under bridge
"Carabinieri paramilitary police traced the alleged gang by following the signature of public telephone cards used to make calls during ransom negotiations,.."

European prepaid phone cards generate a unique identification number when first used; this helps prevent cloning of cards, but also enables all calls using the card to be logged. More...

It appears that whenever a call is made the unique card ID and the ID of telephone booth are stored, together with the number called and the time and date.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Seek and Ye Shall FIND

According to PITO, FIND is the Facial Images National Database that will allow the police service in England and Wales to receive, store and retrieve facial images. A trial project was started in March 2006 and will go live in October this year.

To identify someone, facial recognition software compares newly captured images to databases of stored images (for a gentle introduction to the technology see How Stuff Works.

Meanwhile ... ID cards, which will become compulsory for all passport applicants from 2008, will store 49 categories of personal data including a digital head and shoulders photograph. It appears that this data will not just be held on the embedded chip on the ID card (as was once suggested), but will now be held on a central database. Baroness Scotland has called for all CCTV equipment to be upgraded so as to take advantage of ID card data when it becomes available. (BBC News: Better CCTV needed for ID match 11 May 2006)

If FIND is designed to work with CCTV, and the National ID card database is designed to work with CCTV, how long before all three are talking to each other and innocent members of the public are questioned by the police because they were spotted by the system sitting next to a 'suspected' terrorist on a train?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Automatic Number Plate Recognition

ANPR is a technology that enables police and security services to track vehicle movements throughout the United Kingdom, (see Hansard). In June this year there were 1,140 cameras on the motorway and an undisclosed number of mobile units. There are many benign uses such as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) enforcement and traffic management (such as computing average journey times for a section of motorway). This is clearly a useful tool for the tracking of suspects in serious crime and terrorism and for this reason the data is held in a searchable form for a period of two years. The danger comes when data mining techniques are used to trawl for unusual patterns of movement amongst the entire population. The infrastructure is already in place, all that is need is a good justification - fear of an external threat usually works.

Here is a good description of ANPR technology which lends credence to a trick I learnt when living in France. To thwart speed cameras, my neighbours would apply a thin film of olive oil to the surface of their number plates. (Extra virgin, of course.)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

FBI plans new Net-tapping push

ZDNet reports that, "The FBI has drafted sweeping legislation that would require Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and force makers of networking gear to build in backdoors for eavesdropping."

Would you like to check if your communications are being funneled into AT&T listening rooms for use by the FBI? An article on Wired by 27BStroke6 explains how to check. Fire up an MS-DOS prompt and type (for example):


You will find that from the UK the route jumps from in London to in New York where Narus software scans not only IP addresses, but content. Let me know of any other less obvious websites you find that are getting funneled.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Childrens' Party Terrorises the Nation

The Children's Party at the Palace is not something that I would normally comment on, except that the show broadcast by the BBC received 78 complaints from viewers and the BBC were forced to make a groveling apology.

The complaints arose from a fake news story which started the show and lead many viewers to believe that there had been a terrorist incident at the Palace.

"We had a daughter caught up in the London bombings and a granddaughter at the palace, and I was terrified when I saw this."

"It was so realistic," said a third complaint, "I thought there had been another terror attack."

My first reaction was that there must be a lot of very stupid, humourless people in Britain today. My second reaction was that there must be a lot of frightened people in Britain today, and how delighted Tony Blair must have been when he learnt of the complaints.

This was proof, if he needed any, that his policy of creating within the population an irrational fear of terrorism is working, and that we all will be grateful for more repressive legislation to protect us.