Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Sci Fi Future Is Here and Now (Part 12): Facing Up To The Future - Now

Science fiction films and books have often portrayed scenarios which feature a dystopian future in which citizens find themselves at the mercy of authoritarian technocratic regimes and corporations. Often they have surrendered or have been robbed of their personal freedom and privacy, along with every vestige of their individuality.

As technology progresses and we become more accustomed to it infiltrating our lives, we seem to be on the whole oblivious as to the dangers it can pose to our right to anonymity and privacy when it is turned against us by governments and corporations intent on finding out more about us than we know about ourselves!

The once future sci-fi world of surveillance, monitoring and control is entering the world of the here and now and must be resisted. In a blatantly totalitarian surveillance regime like China we witness the brave young people of Hong Kong taking a stand against the encroachments being made on their personal freedom and liberty – even while the rest of the world largely stands around and looks the other way! 

Even in a professed democratic country like Australia, standing around and looking the other way and pretending that there’s nothing to see here, could result in the development of a police-like state, particularly when there’s no Bill of Rights to ensure that the citizenry has its freedoms and rights enshrined and protected.

So, it is with some alarm to learn that as part of The Australian Federal Government’s implementation of a national facial recognition database, it has been announced that the driver's licences of all Victorians have been uploaded to the system. Was anyone consulted? Was anyone’s permission required beforehand?

The system is apparently being tested ahead of a nationwide roll-out of the National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution (NDLFRS) in December.

I think we are supposed to breathe a sigh of relief to be told by the government that the data will only be made available to state-based agencies such as at first, VicRoads and Victoria Police.

If that is not enough to convince us, the state government is using the issue of identity theft and the cost of combating identity fraud as a rationale for the implementation of the program.

Of course the authorities have gone to great pains to assure us that our privacy will not be compromised. This from a government who cannot even guarantee the security of its citizens' medical records and other personal information on data bases.

We must never be led to believe the assurances given to us by governments and corporations when it comes to the collection, acquisition, storage and use of our personal information. They are lying to us if they claim;
  • Their data bases are protected from hacking. 
  • That data held would never be on-sold to other agencies and entities. 
  • That personal data would never be misused. 
  • That profiling and mis-identification would never occur with facial recognition technology. 
  • That they can guarantee the intentions and actions of future governments.

The National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution is part of a wider scheme by the super Home Affairs ministry to vastly increase the federal government's bio-metric capabilities. What would prevent the government from manufacturing a crisis in order to use national security as a justification for further expansion of such capabilities?

There’s definite cause for concern when we also learn that there’s a process called "The Capability" which allows the government to compare visual data such as CCTV images to a database of passport photos. I guess we could then compare notes with China if that’s the case!

At present, everyone with a driver's licence will be locked into a national database. However, we can be sure that once such technology use becomes normalized it will only be a matter of time before every facet of our lives will require the use of facial recognition and everyone’s image will be stored for the purpose of identification and – control. We just simply wont be able to function in society without it – but only if we allow it!

It doesn’t take a wild leap into the realm of science fiction to imagine a scenario developing in which the existence of such a database could be used by the authorities to curtail people's freedom of expression and right to protest.

While we still have such rights available to us, it is important that we actively express our dissent and take a leaf out of the book of the young protesters of Hong Kong struggling for their freedoms or the young protesters across America and the rest of the world who are saying NO to gun violence and NO to our continuing contribution to global warming and climate change. 

NOW is the time to face up to the future!

Note: Please feel free to check out my Classic Sci-Fi Double Feature Page for an actual 1950's double feature. There'll be more to follow soon.

Check out also my Classic Sci-Fi Radio Page which features radio adaptations of some sci-fi episodes from The twilight Zone series.

©Chris Christopoulos (2019)

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