Privacy

by Glyn Moody


Filed Under:
biometrics, privacy, trains, uk



UK Train Operators Plan To Charge Passengers Using Their Biometrics

from the all-aboard-for-the-surveillance-state dept

Despite repeated warnings from security experts about their problems, biometrics are gaining in popularity for all kinds of applications, many of them inappropriate. Here's another group that is so enamored of the technology it seems it hasn't thought things through:

Rail passengers could be charged for journeys by fingerprint or iris scans, according to the industry's plan for coping with growing demand.

Biometric technology would enable fares to be automatically charged, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.

As the Guardian article explains, the RDG is the main organization representing the UK railway industry. It sees the move to biometrics as a continuation of current experiments:

[RDG] claimed such a system could follow on from the use of smartphones' Bluetooth signals to open station barriers, which will be trialled on Chiltern Railways' route between London Marylebone and Oxford Parkway over the coming months.

At least Bluetooth signals have the virtue of operating quite quickly, and from a certain distance. It's hard to see how fingerprints or iris scans will be so slick in practice. As we've noted before, there are serious problems with getting fingerprint scans for the general public to work on a large scale, and those difficulties are likely to be exacerbated when people are in a hurry to catch a train.

Iris scans typically require the subject to stand on a certain spot and to keep still while their eye is checked. As anyone who has been through some airports around the world knows, iris scans often take several attempts to recognize someone, and may fail altogether, which requires a manual check elsewhere. In the context of a busy station, this seems a recipe for disaster.

But there's a possible solution to these problems. Instead of using the rather unreliable fingerprints or iris scans, why not move on to facial recognition? Unlike the other forms of biometrics, facial recognition systems seem to be getting better all the time. It can't be long before the rail operators suggest that deploying this technology in stations would be a great way to allow people to pay without needing to buy physical tickets or even stop as they head off for their train.

But that would effectively create a huge surveillance database of everyone moving through the rail system -- including those who prefer to travel using anonymous means like cash. And once that database existed, it would only be a matter of time before the authorities point out that it would be ridiculous not to use this valuable information in order to capture bad people who might harm society. As it happens, it was revealed last week that the UK government is already using that argument to access confidential records held on a national health database in order to track down "immigration offenders."

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  • icon
    Richard (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 3:54am

    why not move on to facial recognition

    why not move on to facial recognition

    Guy Fawkes is going to get a big bill!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 4:26am

    Is this in lieu of or in addition to a traditional form of payment?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 4:26am

    Why not install machines that automate the selling of tokens to open barriers and allow access to the trains, you know like a scannable ticket. Or is the real intent here to be able to track peoples movements?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 10 Feb 2017 @ 4:42am

      Re:

      "Or is the real intent here to be able to track peoples movements?"

      No. The real intent is to protect the children. Don't you want to protect the children? What kind of child-killing and molesting loving person are you? If you aren't killing and molesting children (or whatever order...), you have nothing to hide and should be happy to provide your fingerprint, retinal, rectal, etc. scan whenever you want to take a train.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 5:42am

      Re:

      Why not install machines that automate the selling of tokens to open barriers and allow access to the trains, you know like a scannable ticket. Or is the real intent here to be able to track peoples movements?

      Of course, as you know, we already have these.

      However the use of direct contactless payment via bank cards has proved to be a big cost saver and is very convenient for most people.

      What this is is the tendency of technologically interested but clueless public officialdom to try and follow the latest trends as pushed by the vendors of new technology.

      It is not really sinister - just stupid!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        I.T. Guy, 10 Feb 2017 @ 6:19am

        Re: Re:

        Muah ha ha ha... [rubbing hands in a Dr. Evil-esque fashion] The sinister part is just a BONUS!!!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 6:37am

        Re: Re:

        Hanlon was a fool.

        Governments work long an hard at working malice. You have just become so accustomed to it and the corruption that you no longer consider its presence.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 6:41am

        Re: Re:

        Biometrics are hardly contactless, and lack the speed and convenience of waving a ticket over a reader. Use of a contactless credit card needs to more deliberate, for obvious reasons.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Richard (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 7:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Use of a contactless credit card needs to more deliberate, for obvious reasons. Don 't know what you are talking about I found it works just fine on the London tube.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 8:37am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I hope you do something deliberate to initiate the exchanges, else you could find yourself making a payment every time you go close to a reader.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    steve, 10 Feb 2017 @ 5:22am

    >UK Train Operators Plan To

    Don't they don't, they are playing with technology to see if it might be useful.

    This is pure clickbait, I thought techdirt was better than this. Lets take a look at the original headline "Railways could..."

    Just stop it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 6:00am

      Re:

      On the contrary, this is easily viable, and already occurs on the Underground system. The only difference ebtween the two is the ends this is being applied.

      For example, in the North of England, the rail services are just now beginning to use QR coding for their on-train tickets, which can easily be used to help tack usage and people.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 7:37am

      Re:

      Do you have your mandatory chip implant yet?

      Concerned about the scientific studies claiming a cancer link to implants? Do not worry about all that nerdy stuff, they do not know what they are talking about as your ignorance is just as valid as scientific endeavors.

      Nothing to see here, move along.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 5:23am

    spying, great british hobby, second only to gardening.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 7:28am

    bend over for your scan

    There are countries that have one scannable card for all public transportation. You just pass the card over the reader on the bus, tram, train. Paid monthly. Refillable at machines. No need for biometrics. Guess I'm just a cynic like Michael and think their aim is more to get your dna or whatever valuable ($$$) or control information they can.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 8:09am

      Re: bend over for your scan

      nycity metro card can be used in most modes of transportation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 10 Feb 2017 @ 8:32am

      Re: bend over for your scan

      "There are countries that have one scannable card for all public transportation."

      Trouble with that is you can give anyone your card.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 8:42am

        Re: Re: bend over for your scan

        "Trouble with that is you can give anyone your card."

        Why is that a problem? - they got your money .... oh wait, it is really about more than just paying your fair share to maintain the rail system - got it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rabbit80 (profile), 10 Feb 2017 @ 11:13am

    The ultimate aim here is probably to prevent the non-payers who "jump" the trains. My mum gets a train every day for a short journey (~9 miles), and every day she sees the same people who have not bought a ticket on the train trying to avoid the ticket inspectors (if they even make it to that car). If there was a quick way to confirm identity before boarding the train then these people would be forced to pay. There are a lot of unmanned stations with no ticket facilities or gates in the UK.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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