Minister Suggests Giving Internet Corporations Access To Passport Details

I sometimes think that it’s almost impossible to underestimate the average politician’s desire for publicity, no matter how inane or ill-conceived the circumstances. Take this ridiculous suggestion from Jim Daly TD, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, as reported by the Irish Independent. The Fine Gael deputy believes that the European Union should require internet users to hand over their government-registered details to private businesses, the likes of Facebook or Twitter, before they can make use of their online services.

Social media users could be forced to hand over passport or public service card details to sign up to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under radical new plans aimed at stamping out online bullying and trolling.

Minister for Older People Jim Daly has written to the EU Commission demanding new Europe-wide laws which would make tech giants more responsible for faceless trolls and paedophiles who use their websites to stalk victims.

“One such method I would encourage would be the introduction of a cross-check with a social security number as per the Irish public service card, which would confirm a person’s date of birth, or a passport number in order to create an account,” he said.

What could conceivably go wrong with global companies having access to the legal identification data and records of individual citizens? A sci-fi dystopia, you say? An Orwellian mash-up between State and Corporation? Surely not!

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10 comments

  1. Watched the original Blade Runner on my xbox one recently and chillingly knew we’re either heading towards or living in that reality already.

  2. He is naive and so is much of the criticism. Facebook already knows dozens of parameters about all of its users. It may not know your name. It knows your friends. Where you live. Where you spend your time. With whom you communicate. When your birthday is. And more. Lots more. If you have a Facebook app or Whatsapp app on your phone it has all of your contacts. It sucks up information from every webpage you visit if it has a LIKE button unless you have installed a browser extension to suppress it (you do not have to click on the button for your browser fingerprint, your IP address and more to be shared with Facebook). It stalks you all over the Internet. Google “You just haven’t logged in yet” if you think you are safe because you don’t use Facebook (you aren’t).

    Facebook uses all the data to target adverts. That’s what pays. It’s how Trump got elected and it’s how Brexit was won. People (Cambridge Analytica, Palantir and others) paid enough to get customised messages to microtargeted audiences. Unless there’s money, or survival value (still money), in identifying predators Facebook and other social media giants won’t be interested. They can argue, legitimately, that predators can use fake IDs, VPNs and various other means to conceal their locations and other attributes, and that many people have a need for privacy for perfectly legitimate reasons. After all Facebook is quite likely sharing information with insurance companies on what medical sites people visit, including customers who don’t know enough to stop Facebook following them around.

    Check out the story about Target sending coupons to a pregnant schoolgirl here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html

    Facebook and others buy and sell data from retailers. In a loyalty program? You’re a mug, and you’ve left yourself open to online price discrimination based on what’s known about you. 200 companies in the UK and Ireland buy and sell purchase information to target advertisements, tweak prices and sales, and otherwise monetise your privacy. Think your name and address is really needed “for warranty purposes?” It’s not (legally your receipt is sufficient). But it’s great for aggregating information on your spending. The dumbest mugs of all are those who use an Eircode. It’s a database key, effectively a barcode on everyone at an address. It greatly facilitates cross-matching of data.

    But it’s a post code you say?

    It’s not. It’s not used by An Post (ask any postman). It’s not used by couriers either. It was created to be random in order that corporate users would have to pay a licence fee to use it. They aren’t paying and the public isn’t using it. It lacks adjacency (the similarity characteristic of UK and other postcodes for areas that are in close proximity). As result codes can’t be hand sorted. It’s therefore unsuitable for delivery planning, which is why it’s not being used for deliveries (only one off look-ups, and which can only be done in areas with mobile data coverage).

    The technological assault on privacy now extends to following you around shopping malls and anywhere you are dumb enough to accept free wi-fi.

    If you ever become a person of interest you can be tracked down easily. Online advertisers routinely show you things like lawnmowers knowing you live in a flat and don’t have a garden to help deceive you into thinking they don’t really know much about you. As one marketer has said “most people would freak out if they knew how much we know about them”.

    So far only the Chinese state has been very explicit in telling people about its capabilities.

    “We can match your face to your car. We can match every face to an ID card. We can track your movements one week back in time… We can find your relatives, who you’re in touch with, and who you meet frequently.”

    Anyone who thinks GCHQ and the NSA are not ahead of them is delusional. They don’t act on child predators because doing so would reveal the extent of their activities, invite constitutional challenge, and because they are not matters of national security:

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/25/leaked-memos-gchq-mass-surveillance-secret-snowden

    There are efforts to use “cyber” to shut down some criminality, but like the use of “Ultra” during WW2 the security services routinely only act when they can appear to have 2nd sourced actionable information. But, there is an awful lot of criminality and a lot of the criminals are sophisticated (to say nothing of those in the security services themselves).

    The simplest objection to this proposal: does its author have any idea of the extent to which people share passwords or can otherwise be impersonated? There are no quick fixes, nor should there be in any liberal society.

    It’s appalling and embarrassing that this moron has abused his position to try to get the EU to act like some Orwellian superstate. His solution to a complex problem is, like most such things, clear, simple and wrong. Needless to say, it’s also completely untested (something that was also the case when Eircode was introduced at an expense of tens of millions to the Irish taxpayer with a return on investment that remains entirely negative–except for poitical insiders responsible for it). It’s little more than attention-seeking inanity.

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