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29 October 2008, 10:20

Schneier: Enjoy surveillance while it is still visible

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Measures such as ID cards are a temporary measure before biometric technology becomes ubiquitous; That was the warning from security guru Bruce Schneier this week who claims that surveillance technology will get more sophisticated and, more importantly, smaller and harder to detect. "We live in a very unique time in our society. The cameras are everywhere and you can still see them," said Schneier, BT's chief security technology officer. "Five years ago they weren't everywhere, five years from now you are not going to see them."

As well as camera technology becoming less obtrusive, Schneier said that ID checks would also become less obvious and may not even require the obvious cooperation of the individual being checked. "Five years ago there weren't ID checks everywhere," he said. "But five or ten years from now they will happen in the background. It will be an Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip in your wallet, you won't even know its being checked."

Biometric technologies such as face recognition, or systems based on a particular type of mobile phone owned or even clothes, may also be used for identity checks. The increase in background ID checks means that the current debate around national ID cards in the UK is only a short-term issue, according to Schneier. "I know there are debates on ID cards everywhere but in a lot of ways, they are only very temporary. They are only a temporary solution till biometrics takes over," he said.

Eventually, even airports won't actually require people to show ID, as the checks will just happen in the background while you queue for check-in or move through the terminal. "When you walk into the airport they will know who you are. You won't have to show an ID – why bother? They can process you quicker," he said.

Schneier also amused the audience by admitting that he used an ID card that he had made himself to gain entry to the security event he was speaking at. "We all had to show an ID before we got our RSA badge. I actually showed one I made at home. They asked for a photo-ID not an ID that was endorsed by anyone. It is endorsed by me and I guarantee that it is correct," he said. "It works everywhere but airports I find."

The UK recently launched the first batch of its proposed national ID card scheme which is being mandated for foreign workers from November. The cards will slowly be applied to other groups, including eventually a voluntary national distribution but which will also include the addition of driving licences to the national ID database.

(Andrew Donoghue)


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