Diffusion Science radio: ID Card - Is Big Brother Stalking You?

ID Card - Is Big Brother Stalking You?

This is a special edition of the Diffusion Science Radio show looking at a controversial application of science and technology: the proposed card to identify everyone accessing Australian government services.

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Program Summary

Developments in "smart-card" technology have resulted in a push by governments world-wide to identify people (eg Real ID in the US, and the Access Card in Australia) - ostensibly to reduce fraud by those who use their services. Unfortunately, extensive collection of personal details could lead to abuse and suppression of dissent.

Will the Access Card Bill be passed and effectively become a National Identity Card?

We speak with Professor Graham Greenleaf of the University of New South Wales and former New South Wales Deputy Privacy Commissioner Anna Johnston, now of the Australian Privacy Foundation. They explore the issue of function creep by which the access card would become a de facto national identity card and the risks that involves.

Engineer Aras Vaichas explains the workings of possible smart card technologies, and how they might be made secure.

Concealment of identity when exposing fraud and malpractice has long been an issue for whistleblowers. That has partly been resolved by disguising their voice. We experiment with a further level of concealment - concealing the inteviewer as well, by replacing their voice with an anonymous synthetic voice.

We also explore synthesising an interview - using answers from a real interview but splicing them with new questions spoken by an anonymous interviewer voice.

The show was presented by Darren Osborne and produced by Ian Woolf and Charles Willock from the Diffusion Science Radio team at 2SER Sydney.

Is it now possible to ensure complete anonymity for both interviewer and interviewee?
What steps are required to eliminate all clues to identity?
What are the as-yet-undisclosed "commercial benefits" of the card.

small diagram of program structure

(Click for full visual map)


  • Presented by Darren Osborne
  • Synthetic interview with Anna Johnston about privacy concerns, by Anonymous Voice,
  • Aras Vaichas speaks with Ian Woolf about RFID cards,
  • Anonymous Voice interviews Professor Graham Greenleaf about card use and Cyberlaw
  • Produced by Ian Woolf and Charles Willock


The interview with Anna Johnston was synthesised from a story by Alex Koutts, produced by Erica Vowles and originally broadcast  on 13th February 2007 by 2SER on The Wire.   Permission to adapt and rebroadcast that interview is gratefully acknowledged.


  Download/listen, 64kbs MP3 (13.4 MB)  diffusion2007-03-01_64kb       Subscribe
  Download/listen, 128kbs MP3 (26.8 MB)  diffusion2007-03-01 Index  (All Diffusion podcasts)

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Links used in preparing the Big Brother special program are listed below. It is worth noting that while most pages remain constant, some government web sites, changed on an almost daily basis).

Updates: (. . . and developments since the program aired)

[Senate]:  Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee report is critical of many aspects of the Legislation (15th March 2007)
[SMH]:  Government moves quickly to defer legislation for AU$1.1Bn card "Sydney Morning Herald: Backlash fear sparks ID card rethink"
[ZDNet]:  Minister, Senator Campbell, resigns (on unrelated matter).
[Silicon.com]:  ID card support collapses
[ZDNet]:  Tendering for the card continues!

International and General

[Privacy International]:  Leading surveillance countries around the world
[ABC Radio National]:  Background Briefing. "Getting Smart: the Access card"
[IndyMedia]:  Difference between rejected 1986 ID-card and present proposal
[Spychips]:  Issues about RFID cards
[Privacy.Org]:  Privacy International - National ID Cards
[CNet]:  The Real ID rebellion (a similar proposed card in the US is called Real ID)

Privacy legislation applied to businesses is substantially different from privacy legislation for government organisations.

[Privacy.gov]:  Australian State and Territory privacy legislation
[Privacy.gov]:  Australian privacy legislation for the Private Sector

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Campaigns and Issues

[ACLU]:  Flash animation of ordering pizza in an Identity card world
[ACLU]:  Flash animation of ID card interaction at airport. "Privacy, Its about Power."
[Privacy.Org]:  Australian Privacy Foundation ID-card Campaign
[Privacy.Org]:  Greenleaf, Graham "Australia's Proposed ID Card: Still Quacking Like a Duck." UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2007-1 Available at SSRN:
[SSRN]:  G Greenleaf "Access All Areas': Function Creep Guaranteed in Australia's ID Card Bill (No. 1)", Computer Law and Security Report Vol 23, 2007 (accepted)
[CyberLaw]:  "The Australian Government's Submission is seriously misleading to the Senate - Supplementary submission to the Inquiry Into the Human Services (Enhanced Service Delivery) Bill 2007" 2 March 2007
[CyberLaw]:  "Submission to the Inquiry Into the Human Services (Enhanced Service Delivery) Bill 2007' 25 February 2007"
[EFA]:  Electronic Frontiers Australia
[CyberLaw]:  Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre
[SMH]:  Warning over medical details on national card
[ABC]:  Govt concedes age limit on access card

Need for Identity? - Need for Privacy?

[TheRegister]:  Centrelink database abuse 2006
[AccessCard.gov]:  Access Card and Privacy Taskforce Report
[AccessCard.gov]:  Government response to Taskforce Report
[Wikipedia]:  The Vivian Solon case.

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[Here's Why]:  Radio ID Skim Scam
[Here's Why]:  The Card that Accesses You!
[FOI-Privacy.Blogspot]:  Peter Timmins Open and Shut (blog)

Australian Government Websites

[Accesscard.Gov]:  Office of the Access Card
[Accesscard.Gov]:  The Access Card Bill
[Accesscard.Gov]:  Public submissions on the Access Card Bill
[Privacy.Gov]:  Proof of ID required?
[AG.Gov]:  Attorney General: Protecting identity security
[AG.Gov]:  Identity Security strengthened
[AG.Gov]:  Identity Theft Kit
[Senate]:  Access Card questions with notice in Parliament (Australia)

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Technology Sites

[Wikipedia]:  Radio Frequency Identification techology (Wikipedia)
[The-Gold-Blog]:  Are your credit cards safe?
[RFIDProductNews]:  Applications of RFID cards
[Bruce Shneier]:  Skimming RFID Credit cards
[TechNewsWorld]:  Hacking RFID passports
[RPI-Polymath]:  How to make your wallet safe from RFID attack with Duct Tape
[Wikipedia]:  Model 204 database
[ACEvents]:  Australian RFID Summit
[SMH]:  E-tags are another example of surveillance by stealth

Business Issues

The Australian government's push for an "access" card is supported by a business model which is claimed to justify the billion-dollar expenditure.

Unfortunately, the relevant sections in government publications are inaccessible "for commercial reasons" or are labelled "government in confidence".

At the same time businesses appear to be directly resisting attempts for more open access by shareholders, or - more indirectly - via a shift to "private equity" funding.

[SMH]:  "Business needs to keep its secrets"
[AccessCard.Gov]:  KPMG Access card Business Case to Australian Government 2006
[McCombs.Utexas.]:  1998 KPMG White Paper on Smart cards
[RFIDNews]:  KPMG sell biometric radio computer cards to the Department of Defense
[KPMG]:  KPMG report on the benefits of Radio Frequency computer chipped cards

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March 1, 2007

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