27 Sep 2007

Privacy and Security

Privacy and Security: Not Necessarily a Battle to the Death

Reporters at our conference this morning had an opportunity to hear from the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, about the  relationship between privacy and security. His main conclusion seemed to be that the two seemingly contrary principles could build on each other.

“I actually believe that many of the measures we take serve to enhance security and serve to enhance privacy,” said Chertoff, the keynote speaker at a major conference of privacy commissioners and experts from around the world in Montreal. Canadian Press, September 26, 2007

Here’s how Mr. Chertoff thinks this could work:

By collecting little pieces of information from everyone that aren’t overly private or invasive to gather, security officials can quickly target potential threats and avoid subjecting all travellers to intensive scrutiny or searches. CanWest News Service, September 26, 2007

Update: there’s more discussion of his proposal on Michael Chertoff’s own blog.

4 Responses

Anonymous Says:

so we’re supposed to appreciate wholesale small invasions of privacy to avoid wholesale large invasions of privacy? At what point does the government realize that the most effective tool we have against terrorism is old fashioned police work, and that making people give up privacy for security is exactly what the terrorists want?

No matter their resources, terrorists will never be able to kill as many people as car accidents and cancer, and terrorism’s goal by definition is to cause terror, not destruction. Why does the government go along with this and amplify peoples’ fears about terrorism by taking away their basic rights and constantly reminding them what this “inconvenience” is for?

Anonymous Says:

The very idea that we could undergo less screening if the government knew who we are is flawed. Terrorists are not exactly repeat offenders, and their ability to detect them prior to a plot (let alone get their biometrics) trends towards zero.

It however gives a false sense of security when terrorists can get trusted credentials and avoid screening; in-fact it probably makes security worse.

So actually reducing invasive searches is unlikely to happen.

However, how would a database of facial recognition profiles be used in Canada? By the police and security agencies? Well we already have a very good example of what the RCMP would likely do with publically trackable identifiers.

The ALPR (automatic license plate recognition) program scans people’s license plates and stores non-offending entries in a federal database for three months. Innocent people, tracked — and kept up to date with a 3 month running history. [http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2005-2009/2006PSSG0054-001342.htm]

So, with a working set of facial technologies, we’re to assume they wont use this technology in the exact same way as their license plate scanners? That’s just not credible.

The gentleman from DHS is also talking about highly invasive searches; DNA, Fingerprints and Facial profiles provide the government with the ability to compell identity — such as is already done in police cruisers in BC.

We’re to believe that the secondary uses for the information collected are not invasive to privacy? That this data will not be abused as the data from the drives licensing system has been? C’mon now…. we’re not that naive.

Anonymous Says:

Databases cannot predict the future with any more certainty than fortune tellers and tarot cards.

If a “homeland security”-like office started destroying peoples lives based off tarot cards people would be outraged.

Computers are great at doing exactly what the programmer/operator tells them to – they are not good at divination. To many people place far to much trust in algorithmic outcomes of computers but the failure points are vast and many when dealing with future-predicting-databases. Most software is built via trial and error; False-positives in these prediction machines are rarely, if ever, identified as error. No complex computer software is right the first time it is written and believing otherwise is folly.

Anonymous Says:

When come to home land security and privacy lets be honest now they can look up what they want on anybody.

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