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The Forum > Article Comments > Protection from Big Brother > Comments

Protection from Big Brother : Comments

By Barry Cohen, published 16/9/2009

It was once believed a national ID card would be a threat to privacy. Nowadays we need one to protect us from big government.

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The idea of a one-stop ID card to replace the myriad of cards we carry around now is not a bad concept. Reducing tax and welfare fraud or tax evasion is also not a bad concept.

On the face of it, there is no further threat of big brother or privacy than the current situation when dealing with government departments, banks, healthcare, car registrations, licences and so forth.

The problem is how valuable will the change over be. If citizens are to receive a new ID Card using all the other forms of ID no longer considered competent in handling tax evasion and fraud (i.e. aliases) then what good is it?

If someone already has two or more aliases or business identities they, in theory, could attend more than one interview and fill out more than one set of forms using different IDs and residential addresses. Exceptions and different treatments would obviously apply to legitimate aliases such as artists, actors etc. that would be linked to a 'real' person.

The ID card would have to be infallible - iris scanning, fingerprinting or facial recognition technology. This is the controversial bit that might cause concern re privacy and threats of big brother.

The least invasive would be facial recognition - I think this technology is already used at airports and by some law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Fingerprinting and iris scanning of citizens in other than non-ordinary circumstances, is getting into the realm of big brother.

The devil is always in the detail.
Posted by pelican, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 2:30:31 PM
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I tell you what Barry, I will make a deal with you. You get your Australia card, but there are four conditions.

Firstly we the citizens get to have a many of them as we want. For a small fee of course - you just fill out a form on a web page. But the fee is payable by the entity demanding the card. So an individual could have 1, 10 or 1000 cards. They all must have a different identifying number on them. Sounds insane, but it is no different in concept to tying multiple credit cards to a single back account.

Secondly, there is no information stored on the card itself, other than that stuff like the card number and expiry date. Certainly nothing that gives away personal data about the owner of the card.

Thirdly, the personal information associated with the "government account" the card is linked to is stored online, in a 100% secure government database. (Yeah I know, I am in fantasy land, but whatever). You can put whatever data you want in that database - all the personal data you probably thought was going on the card. But, there is a catch - we get to say what information a particular card can access when we apply for it. Access rights terminate with the expiry of the card.

Fourthly and finally, every access to that database including all government access is logged. The log tells you who wanted the information, when they got it, what information was requested, why they wanted it and what card they used. The log is unconditionally available to the owner of the card.
Posted by rstuart, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 8:53:54 PM
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Who is the one at the other end of the phone line?
Who is the one on the other side of the desk?
Who are the people that authoritatively ask me to disclose my name, address, date of birth and circumstantial events that identify me in exchange for their first name, if I ask for it?
And how many of these people are there with such power within our community?

Employees of several Commonwealth and States Departments and agencies, like Centerlink, employees of banks, employees of essential utilities, all have computers with data that identify me. I am told of their benevolence in safeguarding my privacy but I have to trust them no ifs no buts.

I don’t know what a logician would make of it but I feel uneasy when I have to give my name to someone, and I mean someone, not the unsubstantial Institution this one works in or for.

Who tells me that among the employee of these institution there are no criminals or insane or one who knows me.

I had my IC under Mussolini and could ask for the identity of anyone bossing me. I can’t do it here, now.
Posted by Alcap, Thursday, 17 September 2009 12:39:24 PM
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English, the richest of languages, has meanly packed three meanings in the term ‘Privacy’;

a) Keeping of our naked body from the lust or disgust of strangers’ gaze.
Latin: ‘Pudor’.

b) Secluding from Society or preferring solitude.

c) Absconding wealth from the gaze of greedy neighbors.

These three unrelated concerns and politicians’ malice have concurred in having the Privacy Legislation.

The poorest of the poor couldn’t help voting for it
Posted by Alcap, Thursday, 17 September 2009 5:09:42 PM
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We need to provide every resident with choices about how much information they are comfortable providing.

Let's start with our Medicare Card. Why not give the public the option to add any of the following data to it:
*) A drivers licence valid anywhere in Australia
*) Encrypted medical records containing medical conditions, medications and medical alert notes,
*) our passport and visa approvals and
*) any other government licence, qualification, emergency contact, security access code that we want to add ourselves.

By puting the veto power over information in the hands of the individual, and with heafty fines under Commonwealth law for privacy breaches the system has two substantive checks against misuse of information and redress for any abuse that may occur.

By making the card useful, the up-take of choices will be astounding.
Posted by Quick response, Friday, 18 September 2009 12:02:15 PM
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Barry makes the statement:

"Not surprisingly the Australia Card died in the Senate and it has never been revived."

That statement is a sort of a half-truth, and nobody ought know that better than he, as he was a serving parliamentarian over the very period when the Australia Card legislation was before the Parliament.

True it is that the Australia Card legislation was rejected in the Senate after its passage first of the House of Representatives. Indeed, it was rejected a second time by the Senate, this latter rejection providing the basis for the Governor-General's granting of a double dissolution at the time of the July 1987 Federal elections.

The Hawke government having been re-elected at those 1987 elections, the Australia Card legislation was again put before the Parliament, passed the Representatives, and was again before the Senate. The Australia Card legislation was then WITHDRAWN by the government, following the revelation of defects in some of its provisions by a retired former senior public servant. It is my understanding that the Senate did not get to vote on the legislation when it was resubmitted after the 1987 elections, before that withdrawal.

So why is this half-truth of significance?

I speculate as to whether the defects ultimately revealed had not been known to be present in the proposed legislation from the outset. I speculate as to whether there was not a small number of people who had been able to ensure that those defects would indeed be drafted into the legislation, as well as being in a position to precipitate their 'discovery' had there been any danger that it might actually pass the Senate on any of the three occasions it was ultimately presented.

Had the Australia Card become law, surely one of the most obvious initial applications of it would have been to require its presentation upon the making of both an electoral enrolment claim and an actual vote claim at any election. Could it have been that there are interests that do not want the Card used in verification of such claims?

Underwhelmed, Barry.
Posted by Forrest Gumpp, Friday, 18 September 2009 2:34:19 PM
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