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UK's MI5 Wants Oyster Card Travel Data 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
Boiled Frog from a Nation of Suspects writes "The Oyster card, an RFID single-swipe card (which was recently cracked), was introduced to London's public transport users purportedly to make their lives easier. Now, British Intelligence services want some of the benefits by trawling through the travel data amassed by the card to spy on the 17 million Britons who use it. The article notes, "Currently the security services can demand the Oyster records of specific individuals under investigation to establish where they have been, but cannot trawl the whole database. But supporters of calls for more sharing of data argue that apparently trivial snippets — like the journeys an individual makes around the capital — could become important pieces of the jigsaw when fitted into a pattern of other publicly held information on an individual's movements, habits, education and other personal details. That could lead, they argue, to the unmasking of otherwise undetected suspects."
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UK's MI5 Wants Oyster Card Travel Data

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  • Acid Test (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WarwickRyan (780794) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:20PM (#22766102)
    They should make records like this for all MPs and their families pubically available, updated daily and hosted on the interweb.

    After 6 months, they can decide if they *REALLY* want the intelligence services (and anyone who picks an MI5 laptop up on a train) to have the same.
    • by inTheLoo (1255256) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:49PM (#22766342) Journal

      People in power really don't have as much to hide. Political dissidents, on the other hand, have to watch out for reprisals. Would you risk having anything to do with an opposition group if you knew your affiliation would be noted? Symmetry of information is not always the same as symmetry of power.

      The best way to oppose this is to note that there's no real law enforcement benefit.

      • by MoonFog (586818) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:53PM (#22766378)
        People in power really don't have as much to hide? I know of a certain New York governor that is evidence to the contrary, and I don't really believe he's a one of a kind.
        • by mi (197448)

          Well, his case is an argument for transparency, rather than against it...

          • by moosesocks (264553) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @03:43PM (#22767146) Homepage

            Well, his case is an argument for transparency, rather than against it...
            Really.... is it?

            There's no doubt that what he did was wrong, and represented a massive conflict of interest. I have very little sympathy for him.

            However, politicians have done much, much worse, kept their positions, and in some cases even been re-elected. (For crying out loud, the Valerie Plame incident could easily be construed as treason)

            By all accounts, he actually was doing a fairly decent job governing the state compared to his predecessors. His own personal life had very little bearing on his actions while in office (ditto to Bill Clinton).

            Do we want a President/Governor who steals candy from convenience stores? No. However, if he's doing an apt job of managing foreign affairs and the economy, it might do considerably less damage to ignore it, and turn your head the other way.
            • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Sunday March 16, 2008 @07:23PM (#22768516) Homepage

              You are arguing for selective enforcement [wikipedia.org] — a form of tyranny and, when the law-enforcer is himself a criminal, of hypocrisy. As prosecutor Spitzer hunted down "prostitution rings" (instead of advocating the legalization of the practice, for example) and — as Governor — just recently signed the law extending incarceration of "johns" from 3 to 12 months.

              Although many politicians have, indeed, committed crimes, those who were caught have gone through major troubles. That Spitzer had to resign, unlike another infamous "star" of Democratic Party, is the sign, that he was not doing his job that well, i.e. "I'm a fucking steamroller, and I'll roll over you," — is not how a governor is supposed to speak/act...

              By all accounts, he actually was doing a fairly decent job governing the state compared to his predecessors. His own personal life had very little bearing on his actions while in office (ditto to Bill Clinton).

              No, that's not true — his tenure as a governor is just too short to judge. Many consider him a hero of public service for "going after" the financial firms as the State's chief prosecutor. But what those people don't realize, is that he has not won a single trial — only settlements. And those of his targets, who chose not to settle, have all won in court...

              If such was the case of, say, anti-terrorism prosecutions, you would, I think, claim, the entire "terrorism" thing was drummed by the gubermint in order to put your favorite government evil here...

              You seem to agree, he should've been thrown out, yet you come up with silly excuses and "yeah-buts". There aren't any — not in this case.

              Do we want a President/Governor who steals candy from convenience stores? No. However, if he's doing an apt job of managing foreign affairs and the economy, it might do considerably less damage to ignore it, and turn your head the other way.

              You know, you could've used this argument to, say, defend Michael Jackson: "should we not look the other way, if a great artist molested a few boys for inspiration," — or something like that. "His contribution to culture may outweigh the harm done to these kids." I would not necessarily agree, but that could be a valid opinion — if not regarding the actual molestation, than certainly regarding drug abuse, for example...

              Yet in case of a politician, hypocrisy and absence of integrity are immediately disqualifying — a politician simply can not be deemed to be "doing a decent job", if he violates the law(s) he is there to uphold. Ditto Bill Clinton.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Politician's careers can be seriously damaged or even sunk on a single incident of sexual misconduct, a single drug offense, a few suspicious meetings with unpopular corporate or special interests, and a million other things. If we could actually have travel and/or communications data on our leaders, free and clear of interference, it would be a wonderful way to keep them in check. However, it is impractical because the same power disparity that makes this desirable means that there is no chance in hell o
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hedwards (940851)

          Politician's careers can be seriously damaged or even sunk on a single incident of sexual misconduct, a single drug offense, a few suspicious meetings with unpopular corporate or special interests, and a million other things.

          I don't live in the UK, so it might be different there. But here in the US a single drug offense is enough to put college out of the reach of many people. Government grants and financial aid eligibility are removed, if one already has grants, stipends or other federal aid, it gets cut off right there.

          I'm not really sure that, that really is different than having ones political career destroyed because of a relatively minor mistake.

          Meeting with unsavory people, unpopular groups and any sort of recorded sexu

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by VJ42 (860241) *

            Politician's careers can be seriously damaged or even sunk on a single incident of sexual misconduct, a single drug offense, a few suspicious meetings with unpopular corporate or special interests, and a million other things.

            I don't live in the UK, so it might be different there. But here in the US a single drug offense is enough to put college out of the reach of many people. Government grants and financial aid eligibility are removed, if one already has grants, stipends or other federal aid, it gets cut off right there.

            It's different here, we have the right to universal free education until age 18 (compulsory education finishes age 16, we call 16-18 "college" and 18-20 uni). After that university depends on grades, and how much student loan you can get; no one checks your criminal history; hell at some universities *not* having taken drugs would probably be a disadvantage. A *lot* of people I know have did some form of drug whilst at uni; I didn't are because of medical problems I have, and the school I went to was a vir

      • by jgarra23 (1109651) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:52PM (#22766790)

        People in power really don't have as much to hide.

        Wow, that is the most naive statement I've heard in well... as long as I can remember!
  • by Mactrope (1256892) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:21PM (#22766106) Homepage Journal

    What the honest hope to unmask is criminals by considering everyone a suspect.

    What they will do is discover and harass political opposition. Dark times for the UK.

    • by jgarra23 (1109651)

      What the honest hope to unmask is criminals by considering everyone a suspect.
      What they will do is discover and harass political opposition. Dark times for the UK.

      Wow and people call my country (USA) oppressive! Makes me glad I'm not there... OTOH, I remember the complaints centuries ago when the US would complain about taxation without representation, the Brits would complain that they still had to pay more than us, that doesn't make it right! Nowadays we Americans are complaining aobut gas when the Brits
      • by joss (1346) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @03:39PM (#22767122) Homepage
        I'm with you on the spying/freedom thing. Gas prices on the other hand:
        its good that we pay so much tax on the damn stuff, gas should be expensive.
        The fact that gas is so expensive means we have vaguely working public
        transport and fuel efficient vehicles. You're paying $4 a gallon.. good,
        you should be paying at least that, its just a shame you haven't been
        paying that much for decades. If you had your infrastructure would have
        developed in saner ways and you might be in a better position
        to face peak oil. As it is, so many people live > 20 miles from where
        they need to work, and food/goods distribution is so energy intensive
        its really going to get ugly.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Gas prices?

          Don't get me started.

          I've got to make a trip to Liverpool next Saturday to pick up my 9-year old stepdaughter for the Easter holidays - even with a fairly economical car, that's a 400 mile round trip, and is going to set me back 60 quid, of which at least 50 goes to those leeches in Whitehall.

          When they start to invest all that tax in efficient public transport, wake me up and I'll agree that it's reasonable.

          Until then, it's just gouging by the parasites who are allowed to spend 22 grand featherin

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by xaxa (988988)
        Did anyone read the article? It claims this kind of thing (massive data mining) already happens routinely in the USA:
        Critics, however, fear a shift towards US-style 'data mining', a controversial technique using powerful computers to sift and scan millions of pieces of data, seeking patterns of behaviour which match the known profiles of terrorist suspects. They argue that it is unfair for millions of innocent people to have their privacy invaded on the off-chance of finding a handful of bad apples

        It's ver
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Look, I'm all for privacy. Seriously, I'm a big fan. But help me out here...how will access to the Oyster card database enable them to "harass political opposition".

      This gives the police/security service NO additional powers to detain/charge individuals. There's a big difference between having access to information and being given new ways of acting on the information. This doesn't give them access to any information which isn't already discoverable in the public domain. I could hire a PI to follow you
  • *sigh* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theaceoffire (1053556) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:22PM (#22766116) Homepage
    "That could lead, they argue, to the unmasking of otherwise undetected suspects."

    Translated: We want to be able to spy on you. We are not sure why yet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chuckymonkey (1059244)
      Smile! Your're on database!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think they mean it would lead to "the suspicion of otherwise innocent subjects", where "subject" is used the way a feodal lord would have used the word.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      You've got a slight mistake there. "We want to be able to spy on you even more. We are not sure why yet, but we'll probably think of something vaguely plausible sounding."
  • by a whoabot (706122) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:24PM (#22766150)
    Would the anonymised version of the data be any help to them? They could have all the travel data but not tied to any actual names but just to the anonymous IDs of the cards, and then if that data implicates one of the anonymous travellers, or if there's a reason to belief one of those are tied to a suspect, they could get a warrant or something like that for the name tied to it?
    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:29PM (#22766184)
      First, apparently what they are asking for is not "anonymized" data. Second, as was very clearly demonstrated by the AOL data-release scandal, it is sometimes possible to get an awful lot of personal data on people by putting enough "anonymous" data together.
    • Not that I want them to proceed with a plan like this, but anonymising it's a good idea, at least from the standpoint of selling it to the MPs. Think about plotting a graph of a suspect's travels. Now, compare that against a similar graph of everybody else's travels. You don't need the names of everybody else in order to compute their graphs or perform the comparisons. But once you find a set of suitable matches, then you can start more closely examining only those particular people.

      Of course anyone w

    • Why does the system need to collect any personally identifiable data in the first place? Apart from the obvious surveillance uses, that is.

      Incidentally, in Helsinki the public transport system uses an electronic pay card system, which is also used to create statistics on travel for use by the transport authority in designing their services. This data used to be personally identifiable, and was indeed used by the police to track the movements of the Myyrmanni bomber prior to the bombing. [wikipedia.org] There was a bit of
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:45PM (#22766734) Journal
        There are two versions of the Oyster Card. The kind most commuters have is tied to a credit card. Whenever it becomes empty, it is automatically topped up. The other kind (which I have) can be bought for cash (technically I think it's a deposit and can be returned if you give the card back) and topped up for cash. When it is empty it stops working until you put more credit on it (by credit card or cash). If you ever top it up with a credit card then they can presumably tie your name to the card.

        It's a silly thing to ask for, since any terrorist who isn't a complete idiot is likely to use the anonymous version. Of course, anyone willing to blow themselves up is probably some kind of idiot to start with...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Even if the card is not directly tied to your personal details, it is still quite useful to the powers that be. It contains all of your travel information, even if it's not linked with your name. All that's required is to make use of any of the numerous CCTV cameras all around London (particularly in the tube) to get a photo as you swipe the card of interest, then ID that photo (which, assuming you are a person of interest in the first place, would be quite easy). Sure, it's more work (for _them_) than havi
    • by digitig (1056110) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:40PM (#22766702)

      It's already anonymous if you want it to be. You can buy an Oyster card over the counter for cash without giving any personal details. You can optionally register the card, so you can top up the pre-pay online and so on, in which case it ceases to be anonymous, but the default is anonymous.

      Of course, if you really have something to hide, you buy individual tickets, which would only be traceable with a lot of work correlating the CCTV images (no change from the present). Ok, it's £4 per Zone 1 journey instead of £1.50, but I bet the terrorists can afford it. In other word, this isn't a measure against the terrorists -- it's too easily circumvented: it's just more monitoring of the ordinary reasonably law-abiding citizen.

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:28PM (#22766176) Journal
    Here is my pass, and an additional 100 pounds Sterling. Now, just travel around London for the next 7 days, sightseeing or whatever you like. When you are done, mail it back to me. Wow, now that is a really good tourism plan. What? Why am I being arrested at the airport? No, I did not rob a bank. No, I am not muslim. Oh, that's why? hmmmm

    Or better, stick it inside someone else's bag and you look like you were traveling with them. The downfall of all of this is that there is no physical link between the tag and any human being. This is just stupid. Tracking people will not work, and will ONLY inconvenience the stupid criminals and honest people. When will governments learn?
    • by overshoot (39700) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:35PM (#22766238)
      The downfall of all of this is that there is no physical link between the tag and any human being. This is just stupid. Tracking people will not work, and will ONLY inconvenience the stupid criminals and honest people. When will governments learn?

      So do the obvious thing and require that everyone in the UK (including those changing planes at Heathrow) get an RFID implant. Problem solved, identity theft a thing of the past [1]

      [1] At least as long as the Forces of Evil don't figure out how to remove/transplant the suckers. Don't worry, they're not smart enough to figure that out.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by M-RES (653754)
        Are you kidding? RFID's are simple to implant. Go to any veterinary centre in the UK and you can have an RFID implanted in your dog in seconds. Likewise, you can read the RFID of anyone/anything within a 10 metre (give or take a few metres) radius, so it's a piece of piss to nick someone else's ID details, stick them on a black RFID and carry that with you - voila, ID theft made super-easy!!!
    • by Splab (574204)
      You just have to keep in mind that London has quite a lot of cameras, your alibi falters when you aren't on any surveillances footage from where you claimed to be.
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        Well once you've discounted the ones on the borders of the congestion charge zone (which are permanently focussed on number plate recognition), and those in stores (which are all independent so useless for tracking) there aren't *that* many.

        Slashdot just likes to use a big numbers to say there are more in London than elsewhere.

        Of course the best way to track anyone these days is a combination of credit card and mobile phone. No camera needed.

    • by TheWizardTim (599546) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:45PM (#22766308) Journal
      The downfall of all of this is that there is no physical link between the tag and any human being.

      Shhhh don't give them any ideas! Next thing you know they are going to implant chips for you to travel, or go work, or get your chocolate ration for the week. I hear it's up to 20 grams!
    • by fastest fascist (1086001) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:36PM (#22766674)
      Your idea of a criminal appears to be someone who has already committed a crime. To the government, a criminal is someone who might commit a crime, also known as a citizen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        There are actually quite a few crimes that are based on the fact that you were about to attempt to break other laws - attempted murder, conspiracy to commit fraud et al.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by plover (150551) *

          There are actually quite a few crimes that are based on the fact that you were about to attempt to break other laws - attempted murder, conspiracy to commit fraud et al.

          Or speeding on a freeway, or drunk driving. Neither activity actually causes harm, it's just that both lead to increased risk of harm. But both are really "pre-crimes".

          For the record, I think they're crap laws -- what should take place is harsh punishment for damages caused if an accident results, not for some imagined possibility. The world is substantially safer from a professional driver going 100MPH on the freeway rather than my 80-year-old uncle driving a single mile to the store. Even stone s

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mgblst (80109)
            So you are the scum who speed whenever you can get away with it? Yeah, i see you all the time, you never notice bikes on the road, almost run down pedestrians daily. You are always cutting corners, crossing over the road to overtake.

            You do not drive as well as you think you do. Driving is not just about you getting where you want to get as quickly as you can. It is about doing the best on the road for everybody, not charging around like a fool, but driving with respect to other drivers.
  • by realmolo (574068) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:28PM (#22766178)
    Spying on everyone, and having everyone spy on *each other*, is a fabulous way to run a civilization. As we all know, the former Soviet Union and China are the closest we've come to paradise-on-earth.

    What the fuck is wrong with England? I mean, Orwell *showed* them in "1984" how bad it could be, but they keep moving towards it. It's very strange.
    • by overshoot (39700) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:38PM (#22766260)

      As we all know, the former Soviet Union and China are the closest we've come to paradise-on-earth.

      I believe that the DDR (former East Germany) holds the record with something like 30% of the population keeping tabs on the rest. Their status as a workers' paradise is left to the reader to judge.

    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:50PM (#22766360)

      What the fuck is wrong with England? I mean, Orwell *showed* them in "1984" how bad it could be, but they keep moving towards it. It's very strange.
      It's only strange if you believe that government exists to serve the people.

       
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:58PM (#22766412)
      I mean, Orwell *showed* them in "1984" how bad it could be, but they keep moving towards it. It's very strange.

      Not at all. The people in power are generally immune to any consequences, which is why they can do this and not care. The United States Congress was originally structured in such a way that the lawmakers would serve their term of office (a civic responsibility, much like jury duty) and then return to their previous lives to live under the very laws they instituted. That very powerful negative feedback loop was opened (to our detriment) when the idea of "career politician" was born. Now, I don't know enough about England's governmental structures to know if there were any similar controls that have also since lapsed into uselessness. If so, it would explain a lot.
      • In England, you can, as a Member of Parliament, actually hold the same seat indefinitely. There's no maximum term, no maximum number of times you can be elected, so if you have a constituency where the majority of people support you, you can be in power forever. This is certainly the case where I live where the local MP has been in control since the mid 1960s. This is why I do not vote as he is unbeatable since he gets voted in by most of the over 60s (as well as others, since there's no good competition as
        • The problem with that is it's self perpetuating... and why voter turnout has dropped to 15% in local elections at ties.

          Really you should be voting for your chosen candidate *Even if he has no chance* because one day the other 85% might decide to do the same thing, and they need your support.

          One vote means little, but for example in this seat I'm in which is a very safe labour seat... the majority is only 600 people. That's not a lot of people that need to change, and it's a good thing to break the apathy a
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Peter Cooper (660482)
            My MP takes 48% of the vote with a majority of 10,000. But, yes, I'd certainly do what you suggest if I supported any of the other candidates, because what you say makes sense. That said, I'm not a supporter of democracy, so have resigned myself to not getting involved in any significant way (a bit like not going to church really) unless a party that'll transition us to technocracy arrives!

            Back to democracy though, I dare say that getting Proportional Representation implemented would drive up those turnouts
        • We have a substantial number of permanent politicians here in the U.S. as well. Theoretically they could be voted out but it never seems to happen. The good news is that, eventually, they die of old age.

          Al Gore was once asked his opinion on term limits for Congresspersons. He was wide-eyed with astonishment, and replied, "But that would deprive the American people of the benefits of professional politicians!"

          Dubious benefits indeed, no matter what country you hail from.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by turgid (580780)

      Yes, but the barely literate proletariat read the Sun, Daily Express and the Daily Mail which is all "OMG IMMIGRANTS, POLISH IMMIGRANTS, SINGLE MOTHERS, TERRORISTS, POOR PEOPLE, LIBERALS, PAEDOPHILES!!!!!"

      The ones that can be bothered to vote do so according to what these "newspapers" tell them to, and since they vastly outnumber rational and intelligent human beings, we have the government we have.

  • by Angostura (703910) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:30PM (#22766200)
    ... and I have to say that stories like this are exactly the reason why I opted out of using the original Oyster where you have to register and hand over personal details. I use the anonymous pay as you go version. Though, thinking about it, I'm sure with a little effort they could associate the card id with the debit card payments used to top it up.
    • by Doug Neal (195160)
      Same here. I saw this coming a mile off, and I refuse to register mine, although I usually top up with a debit card out of sheer laziness. Anyone that has a modicum of intelligence and is up to no good will use unregistered cards topped up with cash only, and probably only use them once.
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:31PM (#22766204) Homepage
    Shanghai metro for one has an oyster type card that is anonymous. To top it up you pay cash at the ticket office.

    There are logs, and you can check them yourself by inserting the card into a reader; same for your wife who took your card to see where you've been. It is anonymous in that your personal details are not tied to the card ID, so no fishing expeditions by the authorities.
    • by Gossy (130782)
      Oyster cards don't need to be linked to an individual at all - it's the choice of the owner whether or not they want to register their details. The main reason for doing so is that in the case of loss/theft, you can be reimbursed with the money you had loaded on the card.
  • Feature creep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mac Degger (576336) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:35PM (#22766244) Journal
    And this is why you should be wary of ANY data collection scheme...just like it used to be that any application would eventually evolve to a point where it incluided a webbrowser/IRC client/email reader, data collections like thses evolve until the government wants it.

    And what happens when the database gets hacked (this is INEVITABLE) and your personal data is online, never to go away? Jack shit is what. The government won't reimburse you, the data will never dissappear (like they say, real men don't do backups, they archive to the internet!) and identity theives (including, you guessed it, terrorists) will have a field day with easily used personal data which can't be 'taken back'.

    This is one of those cases where the certain (not potential, this shit is ionevitable) consequences are much worse than any 'problem' you are trying to solve.

    Personal data will hit the net, identity thieves will have fun and you actually make tracing terrorists MORE DIFFICULT.

    God, people are dumb sometimes.
  • Shock! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:38PM (#22766264) Homepage
    Oh man, I never saw this coming! Did you? Such a surprise. And here I thought they'd stop at the public cameras! Ha ha ha, boy is my face red.

    Oh well. I'm sure this time they'll be satisfied with their new powers.
    • And here I thought they'd stop at the public cameras! Ha ha ha, boy is my face red.

      I can understand your face being red -- whatEVER inspired you to do that for them anyway?

      One does wonder just how popular it's become to wank (etc.) for the camera crews.

      PS: Anyone else notice that previewing clears any edits made to the "Subject:" line?

  • ...because if you're going to be planning to commit some kind of 'terror' act, you're not going to be traceable by your oyster card. In fact, you're more likely just to pay cash at the ticket machines and be untraceable. I don't have anything to hide, but I won't use oyster - or own a customer loyalty card, or pay with debit/credit card when I can just pay cash. If it's not your own government spying on you, it's marketing companies working for corporations!
    • by evanbd (210358)
      No, but it will be used to catch plenty of mundan criminals comitting more mundane crimes. They sell the system for catching terrorists, then proclaim its success at catching mundane criminals who they couldn't have gotten this sort of warrant to go after without the terrorist bogeyman. And they don't even bother pretending otherwise afterward. They must have noticed no one objects loudly enough to be relevant.
  • The TERROR! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <[rich] [at] [annexia.org]> on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:49PM (#22766344) Homepage

    From TFA:

    The fear of cyber-warfare has climbed Whitehall's agenda since last year's attack on the Baltic nation of Estonia, in which Russian hackers swamped state servers with millions of electronic messages until they collapsed. The Estonian defence and foreign ministries and major banks were paralysed,

    Except that these were done by some Estonian script kiddies [theregister.co.uk], so it wasn't "CYBERWARFARE!!!11@@!"

    Rich.

  • by Nomen Publicus (1150725) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:49PM (#22766354)
    Unless you are already tracking a suspect, data trawling is ineffective. The bigger the database, the less effective it is as more and more false positives occur and have to be investigated. This wastes huge amounts of time and resources and starves real investigations that could well turn up real suspects.
    • by KillerCow (213458)
      See information bias [wikipedia.org].
    • by soren100 (63191) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @03:49PM (#22767178)

      Unless you are already tracking a suspect, data trawling is ineffective. The bigger the database, the less effective it is as more and more false positives occur and have to be investigated. This wastes huge amounts of time and resources and starves real investigations that could well turn up real suspects.
      It depends on what you are trying to do with the data.

      If the methods being applied look very much like Orwell's 1984, then one obvious conclusion are that the motives of the authorities are very similar to the motives of "the Party" in 1984: political control.

      Take for example the current downfall of NY democratic governer Eliot Spitzer just as he was fighting the gifting of massive amounts of public funds to the big financiers. By tracking financial records and listening to phone calls, the authorities were able to uncover a "crime" that many would consider harmless (having sex) and assert political control by making him resign. This frees them to continue their original agenda unimpeded and take down a rival in the process.

      So once all the records of travel (license plates, rail, air, onmipresent cameras) are monitored by the authorities, then you can look at the movement patterns of politically active people and use indirect methods of control without ever revealing the true purpose, and without having to assign full-time agents to follow each person and record their activities. You could track large numbers of people without ever leaving the central office and just place a convenient call to a policeman to pick up the person for whatever crimes you uncover along the way, or arrange an "accident" if you want to be more thorough.

  • Sad but true. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fuzzums (250400) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @01:51PM (#22766364) Homepage
    What can you say? That you didn't saw this coming? Really?

    In the Netherlands there will be a travelcard that can be used in the whole country. Train, bus, tram, subway, everything.

    They come in two flavours. One, *cough* anonymous, wihthout reduction and one, personalised, with 40% reduction. It appears anonymity comes at a price.

    But who cares. They wouldn't do anything bad with it. They wouldn't use it to datamine your behaviour.

    Recently I heared this story. I can't tell if it's true, but it sounds likely. They are still running trials with the cards and there are "some" flaws in the system. Somebody, with a registered card, described his traven from A to B and back again. After that trip, he found there was more money on his card than before and he wrote a story about is. Anonymously.

    But surprisingly enough he got a call from the card company, so he asked how he got his phonenumber. The answer was "what do you think?".

    I find this disturbing.
    • They come in two flavours. One, *cough* anonymous, wihthout reduction and one, personalised, with 40% reduction. It appears anonymity comes at a price.

      Unless they take annoying steps to prevent it, this will just lead to the same response that a lot of people in the USA used: trading. People swap loyalty cards all the time, which I'm sure leads to some amazing connections turning up.

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      They come in two flavours. One, *cough* anonymous, wihthout reduction and one, personalised, with 40% reduction. It appears anonymity comes at a price.

      It's worth pointing out that there's no need to invoke Big Brother to explain this situation, as simple economics does a better job.

  • Even if the data is totally anonymous other than boarding and unboarding the trains, just having a log of what people went where for "everyone" can make it easy to identify an individual from their riding habits. For example, while many people would go to work in the morning and go home in the evening, the odds of any particular person boarding the same train at the same time variance over a few weeks dramatically decrease. If I can see that there is a person boarding at 7:37 on mondays, 7:39 tuesdays, et
  • This system could have been designed not to store travel data, or to store it only for a short time (enough to, say, calculate a reduced fare based on number of segments recently-travelled, etc). The surest way to prevent MI5 from gaining access to these records is to not create the records in the first place.

    An identical observation applies to the privacy-destroying US "EZPass" system for highway tolls, of course. Sigh.
  • The very concept is crazy: organised terrorists who have something to hide KNOW BETTER THAN TO TRAVEL USING IDENTIFIABLE METHODS OF PAYMENT. This is police-state logic at its worst. The obvious next step is to prevent any method of payment that isn't identifiable. Would you be happy with being FORCED to reveal your identity for every financial transaction in your entire life? We may choose to do so now using credit cards, but most of the time we have the option of paying cash.
    • The very concept is crazy: organised terrorists who have something to hide KNOW BETTER THAN TO TRAVEL USING IDENTIFIABLE METHODS OF PAYMENT.

      I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but the whole War On Terror (tm) is founded on the idea that the Bad Guys are too stupid to use any of the fifty thousand or so obvious attacks that we have no way to defend against and instead will attack where the Forces of Truth and Justice (tm) have spent billions on security theater.

      It's a really good thing, for instance, that

  • When London's congestion-charge cameras were introduced, the privacy of the recorded information was loudly proclaimed - now it's routinely shared with police: it was only a matter of time before Oyster was dragged into the net. Even using an anonymous Oyster card (if they continue to exist) topped up with cash will not allow you to hide - since every interaction with the transport system is timestamped, a simple CCTV crosscheck will provide a visual identification.

    Potentially more worrying is the attitud

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      Even using an anonymous Oyster card (if they continue to exist) topped up with cash will not allow you to hide - since every interaction with the transport system is timestamped, a simple CCTV crosscheck will provide a visual identification.

      You can get anonymous cards ? My wife and I just bought a couple for when we're visiting (we're living in Switzerland at the moment and have friends in the UK) and have to give an address to be able to get Oyster cards. These were just some pay-as-you-go cards with 2

    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      I don't see the problem with storing DNA.. in fact it's a good idea. Next time there's a murder/rape, find the DNA at the scene, filter out what shouldn't be there and go and arrest the culprit. No messing around with months of investigation getting nowhere, as normally happens.

      It's not like DNA is actually useful for anything other than identifying you.
  • OR is it just a bunch of sheep?

    For all the outrage on the US about privacy issues, it seems like the UK has been leading in the "Surveillance society" field.

    Are there no protests about this sort of thing in the UK? Do the people not care? Or are they already so afraid of being singled out that they'd rather stay silent?
    • by nicklott (533496)

      Are there no protests about this sort of thing in the UK? Do the people not care? Or are they already so afraid of being singled out that they'd rather stay silent?

      If you'd RTFA you would have seen that that is the point of the story.

      As an aside, this and most other stories of this ilk you read on slashdot are about London. London != the UK. The are only 8m people in London, the other 55 million of us live our daily lives quietly estatic that we don't have to worry about Oyster Cards or Congestion Charges, tube stations or jellied eels; it's unlikely our local police force will shoot us on the way to work and speed cameras are the only things likely to surveil us;

  • 17 Million? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nicklott (533496) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:40PM (#22766700)
    I wonder where they got the 17 million stat from? Is that the number of Oyster cards ever issued? Given that there are only 8 million people in the whole of Greater London (which is the only city the oyster card exists) and only some of them (i've no idea how many but I'd guess about 50%) use public transport that seems a touch high to be current users.
    • by drspliff (652992)
      How many tourists come to London every year?
      Or people living around Britain travel to London?
      The Olympics are coming up soon?

      17 million doesn't seem too far out, although maybe 3/4 of them would be used infrequently.
    • by nevali (942731)
      8 million people _live_in Greater London.
      ~20 million people _work_ in Greater London.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by StrawberryFrog (67065)
      Given that there are only 8 million people in the whole of Greater London (which is the only city the oyster card exists) and only some of them (i've no idea how many but I'd guess about 50%) use public transport

      I live in London and I'd guess that the number is far above 50%. Even those who don't use it on the daily commute do use it from time to time. If you think otherwise, you clearly have never tried to drive a car into central London.

      Also, don't forget the millions of people who don't live in London b
  • ... government has lost trust in the people due to it's lack of moral authority, and so, rather than encourage family values and street police, it is allowing people freedom to do as they wish, but use technology and fines (citations) to tax bad behavior. Think a combination of Minority Report and Demolition Man. And those of is who care don't intend to let them get away with it or stick around. You fight, or you flight.
  • ...is an utopia like the Communist state. It's the kind of state where the all-seeing, all-knowing state only acts in the best interest of the people and all the workers are incorruptible and never abuse the surveillance powers they're given. Where the state doesn't interfere with any democratic rights and has no bias to supporters or opponents to the current regime. Where everyone can say and do anything, associate with anyone and the state will not react unless there's anything illegal happening. Where th
  • As soon as the Oyster card was launched, I knew this sort of thing would happen, just like I knew the police DNA database would expand to the ridiculous degree it has despite government assurances to the contrary. This is why we must vigorously oppose every since little infringement of our privacy, because if we don't the problem will just get much worse.

    How about a "Boycott Oyster" campaign?
  • People now walk around cities around the world with RFID passports stuck in their pockets. That spooks can read from any distance, using "RFID rifles" and the like. Multiple RFID detectors can even see stereoscopically just where in 3D space the RFID tags are, and correlate their locations with data mined from retail transaction logs like buying in stores, paying for gas etc.

    How does someone zap their passport with an RFID embedded in it, without damaging the passport itself?
  • Why does the London Transport store a history of destinations per card? It seems to me that you don't need to centrally store anything card-specific. I believe that BART here in San Francisco stores the value and entry point on the card itself; when you exit, your balance is deducted. I don't know if the entry point is retained, but it's on the card, not stored in some master central database.
  • by matt me (850665) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @06:05PM (#22767920)
    Alas, I have corrupted their data set by ending all my journeys at Morning Crescent.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @06:28PM (#22768068) Journal
    Ahmed: I fear that our plot is finished
    Abdul: Oh great imam, why is that?
    Ahmed: Those infidels, MI5, are now collecting information form Oyster cards. That will force us to buy travelcards or even full price tickets. As we only have a budget of 10 pounds and thirty seven pence for the entire year we cannot afford to place our instruments of terror at the key locations across London.
    Abdul: Oh wise one, you are so right. With the help of Saitan, the imperialist infidels have defeated us with this plan. Now the people of London can live without fear of vengeance for their transgressions.
  • by houghi (78078) on Monday March 17, 2008 @06:57AM (#22771664)
    Remember remember the fifth of November
    Gunpowder, treason and plot.
    I know of no reason why gunpowder, treason
    Should ever be forgot...

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