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Debate at the intersection of business, technology and culture in the world of digital identity, both commercial and government, a blog born from the Digital Identity Forum in London and sponsored by Consult Hyperion



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12 posts from May 2007

They like a challenge

By davebirch posted May 28 2007 at 7:41 PM

[Dave Birch] It's a tenuous link to identity, but I thought readers might be curious about an initiative launched by the British government last week. Apparently we have a Minister for Crime Reduction and said minister (Mr. Vernon Coaker) has begun "new moves to break the link between mobile phones and crime" with a workshop where key players from the mobile phone industry -- such as manufacturers, networks, academics and law enforcement -- were challenged to imagine how the multi-functional handsets of the future can be redesigned to be less tempting and less useful to thieves and criminals. Amongst other objectives, the minister wants to know "what can be done to prevent criminals using phones to facilitate crime". There's nothing like aiming high.

My idea (patent pending) is that when you want to make a phone call, you have to punch in your national identity number first. Then, the phone company will check with the government to see if you are a criminal, and if you're not then an IVR will ask you to clearly state whether the call you are going to make is for criminal purposes. If you say "no", you'll get a dial tone. If you say "yes", then you will be sent a text message asking you to proceed to your nearest police station -- during office hours only -- and turn yourself in.

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There is such a thing as society

By davebirch posted May 26 2007 at 9:31 AM
[Dave Birch] Or, at least, there is such as thing as the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (the RSA), founded in 1754. I popped in today, for an afternoon seminar on Society, Government and the Internet [MP3].

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New identity crimes

By Dave Birch posted May 23 2007 at 7:48 AM
[Dave Birch] When you introduce new identity mechanisms, then you also introduce new identity crimes to go alongside them. Thus, introducing an identity card (to pick an obvious example) means that criminals will be attracted to obtaining them fraudulently and the hitherto non-existent crime of making bogus ID cards will naturally rocket. That's human nature. If you were going to create a criminal enterprise based on bogus ID cards, who would you target? Probably the group with the least recourse to the law: illegal immigrants. This is exactly what has been going on in Malaysia, where a fake identity card issuing syndicate which cheated hundreds of illegal immigrants has been broken up by the police. You've got to admit though that they had more front than Buckigham Palace. The criminals operated under the guise of an NGO carrying out a census on the number of illegal immigrants in the state! Their actual motive was to issue the immigrants with an IC that looked similar to the Malaysian smart ID card Mykad (that we've discussed here before) at fees ranging from RM400 to RM800.

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Optical connection

By davebirch posted May 22 2007 at 10:21 AM
[Dave Birch] The identity of stuff, as much as the identity of people, is part of the digital identity landscape. One of the important technology threads, then, is the connection between the real and virtual identities of stuff. We've tended to think about RFID as the principal path, which it is, but there's life in the old optical barcode yet. Microsoft, for example, has been working on a 2D coloured barcode (using colours means you can store more data than in black and white) which is now going to appear on DVD and video game cases later this year, thanks to a licensing deal with the ISAN International Agency. The Geneva-based organization assigns International Standards Audiovisual Numbers (ISANs) to movies and other works, and keeps a database about each title. Once ISAN-IA starts issuing the barcodes, then the publishers will be able to link products to web sites through that database. ISAN-IA and Microsoft imagine a day when consumers could use digital cameras to "scan" barcodes on DVD cases, in advertisements and on billboards, then be transported to a web page to watch trailers or buy products. As it happens, I've had this software on my Mac for a couple of years. It's called Delicious Library: it allows your Mac to read the barcodes on books and things (using any old Firewire camera) and then go off to the web and look them up. Look: I've just scanned the barcode on the book on my desk and this is what comes up.

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Paying for identity

By davebirch posted May 21 2007 at 8:26 AM
[Dave Birch] A number of industry observers in the UK expressed (eg, Kable) some surprise that the government's estimates for the cost of the proposed national ID card scheme have gone up, despite the fact that the Home Office had announced that it was not going to build a new "gold standard" database but use some other databases (that already exist) and that it was no longer going to capture and store iris biometrics. The previous home secretary, John Reid, had said that this new approach would save money. Anyway, all of this means that the government needs some more ideas on how to recoup the cost of the scheme, especially since charging people thirty quid for the card is not a terribly popular approach. Nor is their plan to charge companies around 60p a time to check details held on the identity database. They hope for up to 770m 'verifications' each year. In fact, between the cost of the cards and the charges for verification, the Home Office forecast that the scheme will essentially be "self-financing through fee income" , although I'm sure if that income includes the income from fines (2.5K for not registering and 1K for notifying a change of address). I was wondering this because in the case of another high-profile local scheme, the Transport for London congestion charge, a common criticism of the scheme is that it relies on the income from fines rather than fees (and still has a 10% evasion rate). According to the publicly available figures for 2005, motorists paid £120 million in congestion charges and a further £70 million in penalty charges, but (according to an AA spokesperson)
In many cases these were not deliberate non-payers. They just didn't understand the scheme and as a result were landed with £100 fines.

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People try to p..p..put us down

By davebirch posted May 18 2007 at 10:21 AM
[Dave Birch] I went back to Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy in New York Magazine. One of the characters discussed in the piece is a girl called "Susie" who, some years ago, rather unwisely made some (and I realise this is a family blog, hence the delicate language) intimate videos for her boyfriend. Somewhat predicatably, someone (probably her boyfriend’s roommate) uploaded the videos to the Internet. Now she has her own Wikipedia entry. No construction of digital identity can stop this kind of thing from happening: but, conversely, we shouldn't throw up our hands and announce the end of privacy just because this kind of thing can happen.

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Virtual identity theft or identity virtual theft or identity theft virtually?

By davebirch posted May 16 2007 at 8:06 AM
[Dave Birch] We all understand how phishing is spreading from home banking roots to more and more online environments, not only in business but also in government. An example was the the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) warning about a phishing e-mail that used the ATO logo and came with the words 'Australian Taxation Office - Please Read' in the subject line. Claiming to offer a refund from the ATO, the message asks users to click on a link that redirects, of course, to a fraudulent web site. And never mind the real world, it's getting out of control in the virtual world as well, with the news that hackers -- most likely in China and Russia, apparently -- have been surreptitiously installing keylogging software on World of Warcraft (WoW) players' PCs, then hijacking their accounts and selling off their often valuable in-game assets. It's virtual burglary: when you log back in you've been e-turned over and all your stuff is gone. Try complaining about that down at Guildford nick.

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Dreaming spires, etc

By davebirch posted May 15 2007 at 8:27 AM

[Dave Birch] I was thinking about my day out at the Forum Oxford conference on Future Technologies, in Oxford. I won't go over all of the presentations since you can go via Forum Oxford to pick them up (and get involved in the discussion) but they did provide food for thought and I appreciate Ajit and Tomi's efforts to create a novel kind of cross-media "watering hole" for those of us kindly referred to as "opinon formers" in their introduction.

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Is it spam if I keep saying it?

By davebirch posted May 10 2007 at 6:23 AM

[Dave Birch]  I was in a conversation about spam yesterday and it made me reflect on my friend Peter Cochrane's observations about the economics of spam.  These are sophisticated: as Peter points out, there are already wholesalers of botnets.  You can actually buy the capability to become a total pain in the bum to millions of people.  The spammers have realised they can get through even multiple filters through sheer volume.  If your filter is 97 per cent efficient, then the volume that gets through is still huge enough to fill your inbox with tripe. And it is that volume is a problem - it is jamming the net and as a result we are all losing efficiency.  Filters, no matter how good, cannot be the answer because they can always be defeated by volume.

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By davebirch posted May 9 2007 at 11:52 AM

[Dave Birch] Someone mentioned something about security today.  The context was along the lines of "we don't need to worry about that particular risk, because the system will be secure".  I reminded them that a U.S. government contractor whose top-secret security clearance enabled (my emphasis) him to sabotage Navy 6th Fleet computers was recently sent to jail.  Richard F. Sylvestre of Boylston, Mass., pleaded guilty to damaging protected computers.  "If we can't trust people with top-security clearance, where are we?" U.S. District Judge Rebecca B. Smith said.  Well, perhaps some sort of identity card would solve the problem, wouldn't it?  After all, no-one would be able to tamper with the National Identity Register because it would be a top security computer system. Oh, wait a minute...

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