Our world and our way of life changed the day after 9/11. And even though I have more chance of dying from a lightning strike than I am a terrorist attack, I, like you, am a victim of these changes.
We threw our arms up in outrage when John Howard’s anti-terrorism laws were passed in 2005. From that day we could all be considered potential terrorists and subjected to 14 days detention just for taking a photo, or walking down the wrong street, or mixing with the wrong people. Or for even giving a cousin your SIM card.
I admit, by and large, that I have not been hindered here at home a great deal from these laws. The worst inconvenience I suffer is always getting randomly picked for an extensive search after passing through the security screen at an airport, the reason, I always protest, is for looking like an Arab. But things are about to get worse. Much worse.
Have you heard of TrapWire?
TrapWire is a ‘counter-terrorism’ technology company that produces a homonymous predictive software system designed to find patterns indicative of terrorism attacks. The assumption is that terrorists are vulnerable due to their need to conduct pre-attack surveillance, “such as photographing, measuring and signaling”. Such suspicious activities, as detected in imagery from pan-tilt-zoom cameras or human reports, are entered into a database, using a “10-characteristic description of individuals” or vehicle information. The data is correlated across the network, claiming a “network effect” of increased security due to this correlation.
Simply put, we are all going to be under the microscope like never before and every movement analysed.
If you are recorded taking photos of a high value target (eg Parliament House) one month and are back there doing the same the following month – you will come under suspicion. If you are observed as a regular visitor to a high value target – you will come under suspicion. What’s worse, your facial expressions will also be analysed. What you might consider to be a harmless smirk may just happen to be the same expression consistent with a person who is about to commit a mass murder. A simple nod could be a discreet sign for someone to detonate a bomb. Your micro facial expressions will be entered into the database to determine what you might be up to and a profile drawn. What was simply a visit to a packed MCG could see the ridiculous situation where you are now a suspected terrorist. It matters not that the lousy umpiring decision inflamed your emotions and you could quite happily shoot the bastard; what matters is that you now look like a potential murderer.
You may well laugh at all this. I suggest you keep reading.
Papers released by WikiLeaks earlier this month revealed that the US Department of Homeland Security paid $832,000 to deploy the TrapWire system – the most sophisticated facial recognition software yet developed – in two cities. Every few seconds data picked up from surveillance points are instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database to be aggregated with other intelligence. Shortly after revealing this, WikiLeaks was relentlessly assaulted by a barrage of attacks which crippled the whistle-blower’s site. Someone didn’t want the news about TrapWire made public.
But it was too late. The New York Times had picked up the story, and in Australia the Melbourne Age (and also published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Brisbane Times) ran with it, revealing that the Australian Government had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in acquiring the facial recognition software on behalf of our law enforcement agencies.
Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam must have read the story and filed a notice of motion, which would, if passed, require the government to acknowledge the system’s existence and whether it is in use here. The Government and the Opposition both voted against the motion (which is about the only thing they’ve ever agreed on).
Then, suddenly, all the articles on TrapWire were pulled from the websites of the Australian media. You will not find them. They no longer exist. Someone in Government doesn’t want you to know they even existed.
So watch yourself, as someone will be watching you like never before. Don’t raise your eyebrow slightly to the left or you might be flagged as someone intending to rob a bank.