Does the Netherlands aspire to an Orwellian panopticon?
Step 1: E-Gates at Schiphol Airport
Today, Privacy First's eye fell on a seemingly innocuous article in Computable. This article is entitled: "Passport photo system is susceptible to fraud" and subtitled "Digital passport photo is substandard". The tenor of the article is that the quality of facial scans in passports (and ID cards) should be increased to reduce the likelihood of mismatches in automatic facial recognition at Schiphol Airport. A trial of such facial recognition is currently planned for autumn 2011. At that time, at Schiphol 36 so-called E-Gates installed: gates for automatic border passage.
On the way to the gate then just walk through such a gate: the System checks whether your face corresponds to the face on the chip in your passport. If it works in 100% of cases 100% this is an incredibly convenient System. If not, the System creates delays and irritation, long queues and new opportunities for identity fraudsters. And even if it works 100% there is still a hidden catch: automatic screening of your safety profile. Before you arrive at Schiphol, you have already been completely vetted using every possible database they have been able to link to you. Once you arrive at Schiphol, it's party time: without you knowing it, you now have a green, yellow, orange or red flag behind your name. More colours are possible if necessary. All this remains unknown to you. That makes it extra exciting. Should you arrive at the E-Gate are picked out of the queue, it is not for a cup of tea with a biscuit, but to admire the colour of your virtual flag once more. After all, it is party time and the State Police would rather not be colour-blind. With a bit of luck, you can then board your plane quickly after all. And then just hope that upon arrival in country X you will not have to face another flag fest.
Step 2: passport photo booth at the town hall
A few years later (after returning to the Netherlands), you will need to have your passport renewed. For new passport photos, go to your local professional photographer. However, he will refer you to the town hall. For some time now, passport photos have only been allowed to be taken there. You vaguely remember an old article in Computable that already indicated that: "Errors [in passport photos] could be prevented by taking a digital photo of passport applicants at city hall, at the time they come to apply for their passports." At the time (2011), this seemed hugely convenient for the government. From now on, no more hassle with professional photographers, just hup, straight into a high-resolution 3D photo in a special Big Brother booth at the town hall. Originally handy for the E-Gates at Schiphol Airport and then also for automatic facial recognition in shops and on the streets, eventually worldwide. A similar Dutch plan was shot down as recently as 2007 under pressure from the industry of professional photographers. Since then, one recession after another thundered over our country. A Dutch privacy movement also flourished. However, this was not to spoil the fun. It took the government a lot of effort to convince photographers that they could do without their passport photo income. Not to mention the privacy of citizens.
Will this be the future? Not if it is up to Privacy First. We will keep you informed.