Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Vast Machine

On my last trip, I picked up a book at one of the airport bookstores. The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. It's a good story about the struggle between good and evil and I recommend reading it.

The reason I bring it up here is because it paints a pretty strong fictional picture of what could be done by the wrong hands in our ever-more-connected world. They called it "The Vast Machine" and fictionalized how the bad guys were able to tie together information from every kind of source to create a super surveillance system capable of finding anybody who even touches the grid. Using ATM video feeds to track a victim, using toll boot cameras to track cars, planting false criminal records to get law enforcement to do their work, etc., etc..

On of the memorable sequences discussing the US's choice to put RFIDs into passports (supported and driven by the bad guys, of course):

"Is the information encrypted?" Michael asked

"Of course not. That would make it difficult to share the technology with other governments".

"But what if terrorists use the skimmers?"

"It would certainly make their job easier. Let's say a tourist was walking through the marketplace in Cairo. A skimmer could read his passport -- find out if he was an American and if he had visited Israel. By the time the American reached the end of the street, an assassin could be stpping out of a nearby doorway."

Michael sat for a moment and studied Nash's bland smile. "None of this makes sense. The government says it wants to protect us, but it's doing something that makes us more vulnerable."

General Nash looked as if his favorite nephew had just made an innocent mistake. "Yes, it's unfortunate. But you have to weigh the loss of a few lives against the power given to us by this new technology. This is the future, Michael. No one can stop it. In a few years, it won't just be passports. Everyone will carry a Protective Link device that tracks them all the time."

Scary. Very scary. Fictional yes, but not outside the realm of possibilities given current or near future technologies.

This certainly reinforces the need to study the long term privacy impacts of all this magical work we're doing in the Identity space and especially with the move to contactless transactions.

Anyway, good summer reading for everyone and especially for those in the identity space.

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3 comments:

Stefan said...

Whence http://www.idcorner.org/?p=157 ...

said...

Scary? Reality…

Do not become another idol fool who has read JXIIH's books and missed his message…


The resistance is real, the Vast Machine is real…the threat is real…

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revanth said...

you are absolutely rite...whatever is given in the book is a possibility...but one has to understand that technology is always prone to being misused..there's no such thing as safe tech...what we can try to do is to limit the exposure to unsafe elements...everything is inter-connected...not everyone misuses the info stored in databases...they primarily use it for "personalized advertising"...IT is the future..understand one thing - IT is the way of life...no one can escape it..unless you prefer to live off the grid in the stone age..live within the system to manipulate it the way you see fit...