Posts Tagged ‘Electronic Payment’

Belfield Attacks Facial Recognition Systems as Part of the Emerging Surveillance Society

September 30, 2021

I’ve put up several pieces already this week commenting on and critiquing some of the videos put up by mad internet radio host Alex Belfield. Belfield is very much a man of the right, who rails against ‘namby-pamby pinko liberal Guardian-reading lefty-twirlies’ and entitled ‘whippersnappers’ in just about every one of his videos. I very much do not share his political views, especially when he demands the privatisation of the NHS. But sometimes he says something with which I agree and believe to be absolutely correct.

This is one of them. In his piece below, Belfield expresses his concerns about the police’s announcement that they will be increasing the use of computer facial recognition systems. Belfield’s worried about the privacy issue here. He points out that it will be used to track you on the motorway, and that it is also being used in some of the cashless stores now being trialled. In these stores, you are watched by the CCTV cameras and the machines make note of your purchases. You walk out of the store without handing over cash, but simply use your card to pay. As Belfield points out, the police can use the information from facial recognition systems and CCTV footage to reconstruct your day, including where you went and what you bought. And it’s not just adults being targeted. Critics have attacked plans to introduce CCTV surveillance in schools.

These are real, pressing issues that have been around for a long time. Back in the late 90s at the beginnings of Blair’s reign I read a book I’d taken out of the library which criticised the use of CCTV cameras and the electronic bourse. This was supposed to be the new form of cashless payment. Everyone would have a card which contained their biometric details and money, which would be used to pay for everything from groceries to trips on the bus. Tory Tony Blair was very much interested in forcing a biometric ID card on us all. The book and organisations such as Privacy International argued that this would lead to a surveillance state. A recent edition of Panorama, ‘Are You Worried Yet, Human?’, examined dangerous developments in AI. These included computer systems that could pilot jets remotely so that they performed better than when they were flown by human pilots. But most of the programme concentrated on the threat posed by computer surveillance. The Chinese are building computer systems and centres to gather data so that their citizens are constantly monitored. The programme spoke to Chinese dissidents who had been arrested and detained using such computer-collected footage.

This is exactly the type of totalitarian society depicted in Science Fiction dystopias. The first season titles of the classic BBC SF series, Blake’s 7, started with a CCTV camera followed by a black-suited soldier, faced hidden by helmet visor and gas mask. This was a trooper of the Federation, the totalitarian galactic empire against which Blake and his crew of former criminals fought. Comics legend Alan Moore has expressed his own worries about CCTV surveillance. He has said in interviews that he deliberately put them in the Fascist Britain he depicted in V For Vendetta in order to scare readers. What worries him is that these cameras have now become completely accepted. Moore’s an anarchist, but Tory Niall Ferguson has said the same thing. He recalls coming back from China and being shocked to find CCTV surveillance being used here, but ignored and accepted by everyone.

Belfield says that these systems and cashless electronic payment are being used to track us, and to keep records of what we’ve bought by companies so they can sell us stuff. That’s only part of the story. Another reason the electronic payment is being pushed instead of cash is so that governments can use it to track what we’re purchasing and seeing if we’re doing anything illegal. Privacy International was dedicated to combating such threats to our liberty. But I’m not aware that this is anything more than the viewpoints of a small number of individuals at present. Blair was prevented from introducing biometric ID cards, but the increased use of facial recognition systems and the push towards cashless payment suggests that the people who were calling for its introduction 20 years or so ago really haven’t gone away.

Belfield is absolutely right to point out that this is a threat to our liberty. It’s just a shame that he is one of the small number of people who are doing so.

RT: Does MI5 Let Its Informants Commit Crimes?

October 11, 2018

This is another report from RT, which I don’t recall seeing reported in the British lamestream media. In this video put up on YouTube on 5th October 2018, the broadcaster’s reporter, Anastasia Churkina, discusses a court case being brought to a tribunal by four human rights groups, including Privacy International and Reprieve. They allege that MI5 has a policy of allowing its informants take part in serious crimes, such as murder, torture, sexual assault or other serious criminality, if it is in the public interest, according to their QC, Ben Jaffey.

This policy is supposed to have gone on for three decades, in various guises and under various prime ministers. Amongst the evidence is a heavily redacted note, and a letter from David Cameron to a judge involved in trying these cases, telling him that it has been government policy. It also tells him that such oversight does not provide endorsement of the legality of the policy, and that he would not be required to provide a view on whether any one particular case should be referred for prosecution.

This won’t surprise anyone, who’s read Lobster. The magazine, edited by Robin Ramsay, and now online, was set up to publicise and discuss real conspiracies by the western intelligence agencies to subvert the usual political processes. This has meant the overthrow of foreign governments that America and its allies find inconvenient or which pose a threat to American corporate or political interests. Which meant the CIA organizing coups to overthrow democratically elected left-wing regimes in South America, like Chile and Guatemala, and Britain and America collaborating in the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran.

It has also meant the monitoring and smearing of left-wing activists and political opponents in America and Britain. Domestically, there is much evidence that MI5 and the SIS collaborated with Loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, operating as death squads against leading Republicans. Over on this side of Irish Sea, there is a lot of evidence very strongly suggesting that MI5 were behind the 1970s smears against Harold Wilson that he was a KGB spy. There have also been serious questions about the deaths of Hilda Murrell and Blair Peach. I don’t doubt that the groups bringing this case are absolutely right.

Regarding the two groups named, Privacy International was launched in the 1990s to stop Britain becoming a surveillance state, in which the government uses electronic means to gather information on its citizens. These include the biometric ID cards and the plans for an ‘electronic bourse’ – basically, forms of electronic payment by card. The government has been keen to promote this scheme as it means that they can track how citizens spend their money.

Reprieve, from what I gather, is an organize that campaigns against the death penalty around the world. It has launched internet petitions calling on the government to intervene in the case of Britons imprisoned abroad and facing the death penalty, as well as direct appeals to the foreign governments involved. It’s kind of like Amnesty International.

I am really not surprised that RT seems to have been the only broadcaster to carry this story, unless I’m mistaken. Fleet Street really wouldn’t like to report on it, because it has been alleged that some of the right-wing press have connections to the intelligence agencies and have served as conduits for their propaganda. Like the Sunday Times when it was edited by Andrew Neil.