Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts in Australian Privacy

The Government is considering the most sweeping and radical changes to Australia’s surveillance and intelligence laws since the establishment of the original powers in 1979.

You can sign the petition here.

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The United States once said that the use of spy drones in war zones would remain the only place that they would be used. As many people suspected, the US moved to using drones on America’s borders and, slowly, have moved inland to be used on ordinary citizens. Naturally, privacy advocates continue to fight against their use, however, Victoria police in Australia have confirmed that they are assessing the use of unmanned drones in fighting crime, citing the United States’ push to use the drones in every day policing.

Police will not specify what roles drones would have in the force, but it is believed they could be used in surveillance and during car chases.

But the idea has alarmed civil libertarians who say drones could be used to track individuals who may not have committed any crime.

“They will be armed with technology that will enable them to identify individuals. So, for example, if the police wish to track a political demonstration, drones will not only be able to track where that demonstration is going but also to begin identifying the people who are members of that demonstration,” he said.

“Drones will be able to trace every movement of a person from the time they leave home in the morning to the time they get back home in the evening,” he said.

“They’re technologically sophisticated and carry great potential for tracking people who may not be involved in any sort of criminal activity.”

If Victoria police decide to go ahead and use this technology, it could have alarming consequences for everyday Australians. As citizens, they have a right to protest and demonstrate against their government as well as speak out against injustices. With the use of drones tracking their every move, many people will be too afraid to appear at a protest. While citizens most likely would not have to worry about “disappearing,” there are other ways the Australian government can convince a person not to protest.

If the drones follow a protestor home, it is trivial to then continue to track that person’s every move. In little time, the police will know the individual’s routine and can step up harassment. Under the guise of “we just have a few questions” the police can repeatedly visit the person’s place of employment. They can show up again and again at the grocery store or constantly have the drone show up at his/her home. Regular citizens will assume some sort of guilt because of the constant police and/or drone presence.

An unmanned drone regularly tracking an individual makes an effective weapon in forcing compliance by the state. The vast majority of the people will only go so far in protesting. Once the fear for life and livelihood are threatened, the government can and will control the population.

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Starting next month, an Australian shopping center will begin tracking customers in their malls, a move that has prompted privacy concerns and an investigation.

One unnamed Queensland shopping centre is next month due to become the first in the nation to fit receivers that detect unique mobile phone radio frequency codes to pinpoint location within two metres.

Path Intelligence national sales manager Kerry Baddeley stressed that no mobile phone user names or numbers could be accessed.

“All we do is log the movement of a phone around an area and aggregate this to provide trend data for businesses,” she said.

“It’s much less intrusive or invasive than existing people-counting methods, for instance CCTV cameras and number plate monitoring.”

Except for the fact that, when you are shopping in a mall, no one is checking your number plate inside the store. While number plate monitoring has its own problems, it is generally accessing that data to look for crimes. CCTV is also not able to clearly identify a person and there are means to hide your identity from the camera. It is also, typically, passively monitoring a person’s movement and, theoretically, only tracking you when you have done something suspicious.

Australian Privacy Foundation chairman Dr Roger Clarke said emerging retail tracking techniques were “seriously creepy” and should be thoroughly investigated.

Some shops are already using image-monitoring to log customers’ movements, how long they stop in front of products, and whether they are male or female.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said the Privacy Act applied only if the information collected identified individuals.

Ms Baddeley said mobile phone monitoring, already operating in the UK and US, would help the struggling retail sector develop marketing campaigns and identify the best mix of shops in centres.

Just because others are doing it, doesn’t make it right. A person who has a cell phone has no ability to opt out of said tracking while shopping. The only thing a person can do is not shop there or leave their cell phone at home so that they are not tracked.

She said receivers attached to walls picked up phone transmissions. Data was then fed via the internet to computer servers to create weekly reports outlining popular customer routes and visitors’ length of stay.

And while they claim that they cannot track or identify a person, if that person shops in the mall, or several malls, their unique ID on their cell phone will, indeed, identify exactly who they are.

Questions remain about the legality of such a system. Australia’s Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 states that

A person shall not:
(a) intercept;
(b) authorize, suffer or permit another person to intercept; or
(c) do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept;
a communication passing over a telecommunications system.

Furthermore, communication is defined as:

“communication” includes conversation and a message, and any part of a conversation or message, whether:

(a) in the form of: (i) speech, music or other sounds;(ii) data;(iii) text;(iv) visual images, whether or not animated; or (v) signals; or (b) in any other form or in any combination of forms.

The signal is intercepted because the device being used here has to gather/intercept the signal. As defined in Australian law, the device that is to be used in malls is intercepting signals that are sent over a telecommunications system, which is illegal. However, it appears that there is a bypass to this law because they are only using radio communications.

Considering the fact that malls also have CCTV, it wouldn’t take much to track and identify a person shopping. The best advice is, stop visiting malls and, if you must shop at a mall, pay with cash and leave your cell phone home or take out the battery before you get anywhere near the mall as they can track you outside in the parking lot too.

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If a New South Wales police officer suspects a person of a crime, they now have the power to remove a person’s head covering in order to confirm their identity.

NSW Muslim organisations have largely welcomed the new laws, but civil libertarians have criticised them for giving unnecessary powers to police.

Mr O’Farrell announced late yesterday that cabinet had approved laws allowing police to direct people to remove coverings, including veils and motorcycle helmets, if they had reasonable grounds for suspecting breaches of security may occur, or breaches of the law had occurred.

The laws come after the high-profile case of the Muslim woman Carnita Matthews, who successfully appealed against her conviction for falsely accusing a police officer of trying to rip off her veil. The judge found there was not enough evidence Mrs Matthews had made the statutory declaration accusing the officer.

Basically, Carnita Matthews was let go because there was no good way to actually identify her. The case stems from the video below.

View this footage and judge for yourself. Did the police officer try to lift Muslim Carnita Matthew’s burqa? Was he being racist?

I think, in this case, the police officer was extremely patient. I don’t think I could have been as polite or patient with this woman.

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Quietly, the New South Wales government in Australia has been collecting data on its citizens with the goal being a compilation of every person’s face in the country. The need for such a system is argued to be so that every CCTV camera can recognize an individual as soon as they are captured on CCTV.

Experts said yesterday few people realised their facial features were being recorded in an RTA database of drivers licence photos that the Government has allowed both state and federal police to access

The federal body CrimTrac has asked NSW for its database so it can be mined nationally by police using the facial recognition information contained in it.

Problems will arise from such a monumental undertaking as facial recognition is not anywhere near 100% accuracy.

University experts in facial recognition said the correct match rate was as low as 90 per cent, meaning the names of people with faces sharing a similar structure to criminals could be returned in searches.

Dr Carolyn Semmler from the University of Adelaide said police wanted to eventually use facial recognition in smart CCTV cameras allowing people to be tracked anywhere there was a camera.

While some may say that they don’t care if their information is collected so long as it prevents crime, a 90% accuracy rate is not good enough. This means that in large cities, such as London, up to 3000 people per day are wrongly identified. Will you still understand when the police barge in your house at 3am and make you and your children lie face down on the floor because you’ve been pegged as a pedophile, rapist, drug dealer or terrorist?

NSW Opposition police spokesman Mike Gallacher said most people were unaware their face had been mapped when they applied for or had their licences renewed, allowing them to potentially be tracked.

There is a fundamental problem with the government when they freely invade people’s privacy and then neglect to tell them that it is even happening. The RTA has been compiling this new database since last December, meaning that anyone who has renewed their license in that time has had their facial features mapped and placed into the database.

While this is being done in the name of national security and the prevention of using driver’s licenses fraudulently, it is a huge invasion of privacy. Before removing residents’ civil liberties, there should have been debate and discussion. Instead, the New South Wales government felt it necessary to not inform anyone of what was occurring. This is, most likely, because no one would have wanted it.

Couple the facial recognition to CCTV with the GO card, and ANPR and you’ve got a very nice system that can personally track you every single step of your day. Everyone hopes that none of this technology will be abused, however, we’ve seen time and again that it can and is on a regular basis.

I don’t intentionally break the law. I do everything possible to preserve my privacy, but being tracked and misidentified is not something I can control. I cannot trust those with the power to not abuse it, leaving me with the only recourse possible. Everyone needs to write to their MPs now while there’s still a chance to change things.

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