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Owning Identity— One or Many—Do We Have a Choice?

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1 Author(s)
Marcus Wigan ; The author is with Oxford Systematics, and is a Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

The rapid growth of databases, biometrics, and RFID has led to an environment where identity-related technologies are approaching a critical mass as a potential means of controlling the population. The essential aspects of these diverse technical advances are the links between identity and accelerating intensification of dataveillance capacities. DNA databases are perhaps the most salient example, but their comprehensive application has yet to materialize on a large scale. The legal infrastructure to expand DNA databases more rapidly is already enabled by recent legislation, but the cost and complication (and indeed vulnerabilities) of building such databases mean that at present we can consider them as simply fresh opportunities for function creep. DNA's high profile potential is dwarfed by the risks inherent in the many other cross-linkages now being enabled. These links may be direct (via formal data matching legislation), or indirect, i.e., the result of rapidly expanded powers to secretly monitor parties on a prospective (trawling) basis by creating assemblies of data from many sources. The links enabled by a "unique identity" are central to both direct and indirect data and physical surveillance. Identity is now commonly treated in legislation as if it were a unique item. This supposition has many ramifications. These effects were either unintentionally emergent or consciously intended; in either case the social impact is not widely appreciated.

Published in:

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine  (Volume:29 ,  Issue: 2 )
IEEE Biometrics Compendium
IEEE RFIC Virtual Journal
IEEE RFID Virtual Journal