Wednesday 5 July 2017

The zombie stirs, the UK Home Office is on manoeuvres again …

… ID cards are back on the agenda …

… and The Sunday Times couldn't find room to publish the following letter:
From: David Moss
Sent: 25 June 2017 23:42
To: ''
Subject: ID cards and border control

‘Bad border controls are worse than none at all’
Dominic Lawson
June 25 2017


The regularly excellent Dominic Lawson suggests that the Labour government’s proposed biometric ID card scheme would have worked and that the subsequent 2010 coalition government was wrong to terminate it [1].

Uncharacteristically wrong, he ignores the fact that the biometric technology on which that scheme relied was and remains hopelessly unreliable at the scale required [2,3]. That is why the Home Office gave up on their National Identity Scheme (RIP) long before May 2010. It was not going to help with border control [4] nor with any of the other objectives it was vaguely hoped that it might achieve.

The baton was passed from the Home Office to the Cabinet Office and their GOV.UK Verify scheme (RIP) which, after more than five years of development, currently has a failure rate of 65% according to the Government Digital Service’s own performance statistics [5,6].

Mr Lawson and the rest of us will have to find some other suppliers of identity assurance than Whitehall. The mobile phone network operators [7], for example, and the banks are the preferable ports of call. The awful alternatives are the Pied Pipers – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, … [8].

David Moss

Exclusive to The Sunday Times.


Nonsense on stilts, five days after Dominic Lawson's article, The Times carried Why I’ve come round to the idea of ID cards by Philip Collins: "Fears about illegal immigration which drove many to vote for Brexit would be answered by a national identity scheme".


Updated 3.9.17

Emma Duncan of The Economist newspaper, writing in The Times newspaper the other day, Beware the growing power of Google, warns readers about the power of the "Pied Pipers" as DMossEsq calls them, please see above, Google and its ilk.

Her case is not assisted by adding in irrelevant swipes at President Trump and the Republicans.

Nor is it assisted by moaning about Brexit.

Least of all is it assisted by this gratuitous claim of hers about the Pied Pipers: "That they know so much about what we do and where we go is troubling enough in itself; combined with the growing power of face-recognition technology, it is downright scary".

Mass consumer biometrics based on face recognition doesn't work. That's been the case for years. It continues to be the case.

Take, for example, the case of the Notting Hill Carnival last weekend, when the police used face recognition to try to spot 500 people on a watchlist. Liberty, the civil liberties organisation, had an observer who was allowed to watch the biometrics operation for a while:
I watched the facial recognition screen in action for less than 10 minutes. In that short time, I witnessed the algorithm produce two 'matches' – both immediately obvious, to the human eye, as false positives. In fact both alerts had matched innocent women with wanted men.
I asked how many false positives had been produced on Sunday – around 35, they told me. At least five of these they had pursued with interventions, stopping innocent members of the public who had, they discovered, been falsely identified.
That's the level of reliability of face recognition with a tiny 500-person watchlist. Scale it up to 70 million people in the UK, and what do you get? You get an appalling waste of taxpayers' money by laughably credulous officials at the Home Office but you don't get anything for Ms Duncan or Liberty to be scared of.

They would do better to mock the official attempt to rely on mass consumer biometrics than to whip up fear. Expressing fear of this flaky technology rather helps the salesmen to close a deal with the latest dupe ...

... and it helps the latest dupe with its latest manoeuvres.

Meanwhile, having confused the issue with Trump, Brexit and biometrics, Ms Duncan lets the Pied Pipers get off scot-free.

Updated 13.9.17

It was a big day yesterday. Apple unveiled its new flagship product, the iPhone X, packed with new facilities like face recognition.

The presentation was hosted by an Apple Vice President, Craig Federighi. According to the Times newspaper:
Apple’s new facial recognition system is so secure that the chance of a stranger unlocking your iPhone X is one in a million.

Unfortunately for Apple, when Craig Federighi demonstrated the handset yesterday it proved too secure, apparently not recognising him.
DMossEsq told you so.

Updated 15.9.17

Writing in the Telegraph newspaper yesterday the normally excellent Allister Heath says "we are now only a few years away from the day when facial recognition technology will be sufficiently advanced that, whenever we walk down a street, networks of CCTV cameras, public as well as private, will immediately recognise us".

Why does he say that?

There is no evidence to support his contention.

None whatever.

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