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UK's MI5 Wants Oyster Card Travel Data 291

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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  • 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.

  • The TERROR! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard W.M. Jones ( 591125 ) <> 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 [], so it wasn't "CYBERWARFARE!!!11@@!"


  • by fastest fascist ( 1086001 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:29PM (#22766616)
    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. [] There was a bit of a fuss about this, however, and nowadays the system can no longer be used to track the movements of any given individual. Or that is what they say, anyway.
  • Re: *sigh* (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 ) <> on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:41PM (#22766710) Homepage
    Nah you got it backwards.

    The British Empire contains subjects. We're all subjects of the Queen.

    OTOH she doesn't have a lot of power in practice - in theory she appoints the prime minister and the cabinet, and could unilaterally dismiss the government.. the army also swear allegience to her so they couldn't exactly stop her. In reality that just isn't going to happen. No monarch has dismissed an elected prime minister since 1834.
  • 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:17 Million? (Score:3, Informative)

    by StrawberryFrog ( 67065 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @03:53PM (#22767196) Homepage Journal
    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 but do work in it, and thus will use London public transport on the daily commute.
  • by VJ42 ( 860241 ) * on Sunday March 16, 2008 @04:13PM (#22767314)

    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 virtual dug den causing me to have an irrational hatred of druggies.*

    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 sexual promiscuity isn't as separate from ones work life as it used to be. Even a minor infraction like an adult drinking can be enough to torpedo a career over here. Such as that woman who was training to be a teacher. I can't recall what the end of that story was, but the fact that she was dismissed from college in the first place is what I'm getting at.
    The only people that get background checked out on this side of the pond are those that deal with children and vulnerable adults. No one is going to get the sack for drinking in this country, I know a couple of teachers and occasionally go drinking with them. There's no problems there, if they were to break the law whilst drunk they might face problems however.

    However, it is impractical because the same power disparity that makes this desirable means that there is no chance in hell of us actually receiving accurate information about them - if we got anything it would likely have been scrubbed clean.
    The reason why it won't happen there is the same reason why it won't here, the voters lack the will to tell their elect officials to cram it.
    Here our countries are the same.

    *It was a posh public (Amrican==private) school, so it couldn't expel drugged up pupils in case it hurt their image. Of course, having stoned or otherwise drugged people in class, didn't do much to help the learning environment.
  • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @04:46PM (#22767516)
    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 very unlikely that they'd even consider harassing political opposition, but it shouldn't be allowed just in case -- looking far into the future.

    A lot of Britons think tax on gasoline should be increased in the USA. They don't necessarily think it should be decreased in the UK, but would prefer instead to see better results from the money being poured into public transport.
  • by peektwice ( 726616 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @10:28PM (#22769680)
    Your sarcasm is noted, re: this article [], but you are spot on in your distrust.
    No chick ever trusted any guy who said "I'll just put the tip in", and no thinking person should trust a government that says they are trying to make your life safer by invading your privacy.
    I have seen and heard comments that are dismissive and arrogant to anyone who brings up the privacy issue, and that article seals it for me. We go from making your life safer by installing cameras everywhere, then to watching where you travel, in the name of anti-terrorism, then to collecting your DNA and making predictions about whether you will become a criminal.
    George Orwell was not only an author, but apparently also somewhat of a prophet.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.