Total Information Awareness System (TIAS)
As one of the inappropriate and sinister reactions to the threat of terrorism, the US government is proposing to introduce TIAS, a system that will log every library book ever issued to anyone (as well as a vast amount of other information to provide profiling and on-line tracking of citizens) - and there may soon be suggestions of a similar system in the UK. Cartoons from the US library-related websites are here.
The ideas include that if a terrorist wants to make a nuclear bomb, he or she will first use a library in the USA to find out how to do it. Also, he or she will be sufficiently dim not to borrow or somehow acquire someone else's library ticket to gather all the required information. The extent to which library tickets can be misused to circumvent present-day library security is detailed elsewhere but the real point is whether libraries should even attempt to become a part of the State's inherently flawed surveillance apparatus.
The so-called People's Network computer system in the UK has already put in place the basic hardware necessary to record every web page accessed by any library user, and to collate this information against Identity Card Numbers when these become the mandatory or preferred method of identification in libraries. Integration of the People's Network and book issue computer systems in libraries is already underway on a trial basis.
Both the American Library Association (ALA) in the USA and CILIP in the UK have (to their credit) come out strongly against the TIAS proposals. More details of the CILIP view of the 'right to complete privacy' can be found on their website. All library staff are encouraged to read this article.
The GILC website has a number of links to articles about TIAS including http://www.epic.org/privacy/profiling/tia/ and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2580089.stm. In this amusing story entitled 'the web bites back', the BBC have documented how the Internet has been used in the USA to exact revenge on two individuals whose activities people have found distasteful. The first was a 'spammer' who had the capacity to send out billions of unwanted emails every day. (He is now receiving a few himself). The other story details how John Poindexter, the man in charge of the TIAS has been placed under 24 hour surveillance by civil liberties activists. A veteran of the Reagan era, Mr Poindexter was involved in the Iran-Contra affair and is reported as having said that it was his duty to withold information from Congress. His home and personal details have been published on dozens of websites in the USA. The story can be emailed direct from the BBC site. Another BBC page worth reading is http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2502631.stm. This reports some of the discussion at Comdex 2002 including doubts over the hi-tech terror fight, the Homeland Security Act and the Computer Security Enhancement Act, all in the USA.
Arguments are often advanced that since computers available for public use can be used for evil purposes, each and every use of them should be subject to an audit trail. Much the same can be said for buses and trains. There is a clear and irrefutable case in the National Interest and under Emergency Powers Legislation for all persons using public transport to be electronically tagged with all details of their journeys and the persons with whom they sat or conversed to be logged and forever available to the Department of Internal Transportation Surveillance. Data from these systems would be correlated with digitised facial images from surveillance cameras incorporated into every bus stop and train platform, and the results processed to identify truants as well as librarians out shopping when they were on sick leave. As further and lasting benefits to Society, vandalism on trains and buses would be eliminated and jobs for computer professionals would become even better paid - after all we would need so many more of them.
Moreover, given that so much library 'snooping' has been installed purportedly to avoid the risk of child abuse or 'grooming for sex using the Internet' it must be questioned why compulsory break-up of families would not be a more effective weapon in the armoury of the State. Abuse is known to occur primarily within families. Ordering all these to be dispersed and for children to be henceforth educated and nurtured in government approved facilities (each with a secure library) would surely result in an even greater reduction in abuse. The record of Council-run homes in the UK is particularly good. Indeed, biological parents could be abolished altogether and children produced in factories and to an approved specification.
Computer surveillance offers endless possibilities for improving Society. Libraries look set to be in the vanguard of the New World Order, as does a company in the USA, Applied Digital Solutions, which is reported as having developed the VeriChip. Encapsulated in medical grade glass, this can be implanted under the skin to provide tracking information. The US Food and Drug Administration have concerns about some aspects of its use - see http://www.fda.gov/foi/warning_letters/g3668d.pdf . More information is on the GILC website under archival 'alerts' for Dec 2002.
Although the United States may now be seen as the country where privacy is most under threat, the UK is also often singled out for criticism. In an extensive review of business applications of surveillance and filtering technology published in October 2002, the Financial Times said
"The definition of unacceptable content differs wildly between cultures. Nudity might be tolerated in France, but is unacceptable in Saudi Arabia; a harmless e-mail joke in London could spark litigation in California.
Worse, legislation governing surveillance differs from country to country, making policies complex and expensive to implement. The UK, for example, allows far more monitoring than many European countries, including Germany. The EU plans to harmonise surveillance rules, but agreement is probably two or more years away."
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