June 23, 2020 | In nine months at the latest, the totalitarian surveillance fantasy of the World Economic Forum and the US Homeland Security, called Known Traveller Digital Identity, is to become reality on the Eurostar between London and the continent.
From March 2021 people with an “I’ve got nothing to hide” attitude will be able to get around border and ticket controls at St Pancras International Station in London on their way to the Continent via the Eurostar, All they will have to do is upload a suitable portrait photo and a copy of their identity document to a government server. Then, instead of standing in a queue, they can walk down a camera-tagged “biometric corridor” without having to show a document. The passport and ticket will, however, be needed at the destination, at least until the brave new total surveillance world of the World Economic Forum has been implemented there, too.
The Known Traveller Program, which has been jointly developed by the World Economic Forum and US Homeland Security, initially provides for international air travel in which travellers collect identity data about themselves in a block chain to which only they have access. If they want to cross a border, they may announce their travel plans in advance and release their data. Cameras with facial recognition software automatically recognize them and let them pass the queues at the controls. What London now wants to implement for Eurostar traffic, follows exactly this principle (apart from the blockchain data-ownership folklore of the Known Traveller).
London has long been a front runner in the use of pretexts to implement an increasingly complete automated surveillance infrastructure. Great Britain is amoung the countries with the highest density of surveillance cameras in relation to the population. The use of long-range radar to detect speeders created a pretext years ago to record practically all car traffic with cameras with license plate recognition function. Cash is increasingly rarely accepted for parking or toll payment, so that digital surveillance solutions can be fully effective here as well.
The justification given for the Known Traveller solution at Eurostar is that it speeds up boarding, avoids queues and – especially timely – avoids physical contact in order to combat epidemics. The fact that the previous controls were already contactless is deliberately overlooked here.
A Eurostar representative stressed that the program was completely voluntary. The travellers would know that they were being filmed and subjected to facial recognition and could agree to this voluntarily.
The young British IT company iProov is to contribute the facial recognition function. The company promises to be able to reliably determine if someone is holding up a photo or pulling a mask over their face. In order to develop the technology in time, the company is receiving a grant of 388,000 pounds from the government.
Proximity to the intelligence community
A look at the three-member iProov board suggests that there could be more to it than just faster and more convenient travel. In addition to a representative of the private capital company JPJ, the company is supervised by Eddie Alleyn and Angela Sasse.
Alleyn has 25 years’ experience in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and most recently at the government’s communications centre, HMGCC. According to Wikipedia, its mission is to provide security-related electronics and software for the government’s communications needs. It is closely linked to the Foreign Office and the “intelligence community, the entry says”.
Sasse is head of information security research at University College London and is director of the Research Institute for the Science of Cyber Security, funded by the secret service GCHQ.
One could be forgiven for suspecting that the secret services of the Five-Eye Alliance would secure direct access to the data of the persons scanned and recognized at the entrance of Eurostar and elsewhere by iProov. But only notorious cynics would think that what is marketed as voluntary in the beginning could be made inevitable at some point.
A German version of this Blogpost was published on the same day and translated by the author with help from DeepL.com.