Step 1: E-Gates at Schiphol Airport

Today a seemingly innocent article in Computable caught Privacy First’s attention. The title of the article is ‘‘Passport photo system is fraud sensitive’’ and its subtitle reads ‘‘Digital passport photo inadequate’’. The gist of the article is that the quality of the facial scans in passports (and ID cards) will have to be improved in order for the chance of mismatches in automated facial recognition at Schiphol Airport to be reduced. An experiment with facial recognition is currently planned for the fall of 2011. At Schiphol 36 so-called E-Gates will then be installed: gates for automatic border passage.    

On your way to the gate you will simply walk through one of those gates: the System verifies whether your face corresponds with the face on the chip of your passport. In case the System works 100% a 100% of the time then it’s enormously useful. In case it doesn’t, the System causes delays and irritation, long queues and new opportunities for identity fraud. And even if it does work faultlessly, there’s still a hidden 'catch': automatic screening of your security profile. Before coming to Schiphol you have already been completely screened on the basis of all possible databases that have been linked to you. Once at Schiphol it’s 'party time': without you knowing it your name has been assigned to a green, yellow, orange or red flag. More colors are possible. All of this remains unknown to you, which makes it all the more exciting. If you are taken apart from the queue at the E-Gate then it won’t be for a cup of tea and a biscuit, but to admire the color of your virtual flag once more. After all, it’s party time and the Royal Netherlands Border Police would rather not be color-blind. With a bit of luck you can still go aboard your plane, hoping of course that at the arrival in country X there’s no other feast of flags awaiting you.

Step 2: passport photo booth in the city hall

A few years later (on your return to the Netherlands) you need to renew your passport. For new passport photos you go to your local professional photographer. However, he redirects you to the city hall. For some time passports photos are still only allowed to be made there. You vaguely recall an article in Computable that already referred to this: ‘‘Mistakes [with passport photos] could be prevented by making a digital photo of the passport applicants in the city hall, at the moment they make their passport application.’’ At the time (2011) this seemed enormously useful to the government. Henceforth no more hassle with professional photographers but high definition 3D photos taken straight away in a special Big Brother booth at the town hall, easy as that. Designed initially for E-Gates at Schiphol, then used for automatic facial recognition in shops and on the streets, eventually worldwide. A comparable Dutch plan was rejected in 2007 under pressure from the sector of professional photographers. Since that time our country was hit by one recession after the other. Meanwhile the Dutch privacy movement flourished. But that wasn't meant to spoil the 'fun'. Therefore it took the Dutch government a lot of effort to convince photographers that they could very well do without their passport photo revenues. Not to mention the privacy of Dutch citizens.

Will this be our future? Not if it’s up to Privacy First. We’ll keep you posted.

Published in Profiling

The art project ‘© Google Privacy’ by Dutch artist Sofie Groot Dengerink will be on exhibit in the Municipal Museum of The Hague from 10 July till 21 August 2011. This art project is part of the SummerExpo 2011 dubbed ‘Anonymously Chosen’. In 2010 Groot Dengerink graduated from the Utrecht School of Arts with her project ‘© 2020’. ‘© Google Privacy’ is the continuation of this and will show a number of interiors that are visible in Google Maps, as was the case with her previous project.

© Google Privacy is a virtual street where the viewer gets a special peek into the lives of the people who live there. Fascinated by Google’s digital world and by the interaction with the analogous world, Sofie Groot Dengerink shows how far-reaching the digital invasion of privacy is by incorporating screenshots of Google Maps in her work. She wonders: ‘How much further will things go?’

Sofie: ‘‘There’s actually relatively little to be seen in the living rooms, but what if better cameras are going to be used in the future with which you can effectively zoom into those rooms, being able to actually read what is written on the account statements that are on the table... Your entire private life is literally up for grabs out on the street, with the difference that these streets can be viewed all over the world and at any given moment during the day. Street View is public territory and Google puts these images online without the residents knowing it. In the old days you used to walk on the streets at night and you could peek into the homes that didn’t have their curtains drawn, ‘so you could see how Mary had her couches arranged’. Nowadays you can safely do that at home, behind your desk.’’

‘‘Nothing stays a secret in today’s internet culture. Many people that I visited, of whom I had ‘taken a picture’ of their interior, didn’t even know that their interior is so clearly visible in Google Maps and they were alarmed by it. So some of them didn’t want to cooperate with my project, which of course is understandable. Suddenly there’s this girl standing at your front door with a picture of your dining table full of paperwork asking whether she may print and use it. You cannot yet quite see what exactly is written on those papers, but this is only still a small step away from really zooming into the living room. That’s what I’m trying to show with this research. The pictures are merely screenshots from my PC screen. I myself have put the navigation that seems to come from Google as a layer on top.’’

In © Google Privacy you just get that little bit of extra information about life in this digital parallel world (click on the pictures to enlarge):

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In 2010 Sofie Groot Dengerink designed a tram with ‘Amstertram Maps’ for the Amsterdam public transport company GVB as well as an installation called ‘Digital Transformation’ for Capgemini, Les Fontaines. More work by Sofie Groot Dengerink that is characterized by the interaction between the digital and analogous world can be found at www.copyright2020.com and www.sofiegd.nl.

Published in Art Collection
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 10:27

Passport Trial photo series, November 29, 2010

Below is an extensive photo impression of the day of our Passport Trial at the Palace of Justice in The Hague. These pictures were taken by press photographer Guus Schoonewille of Fastfoto and can be used freely under the following title: "Privacy First Foundation, 29 November 2010, Trial against the new Passport Act. Photo: Guus Schoonewille". Click on the picture of your choice to see a larger version which you can download using your right mouse button.

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Published in Press Materials
Monday, 29 November 2010 21:25

Hague impressions of the Passport Trial

Below is an extensive photo impression of the day of our Passport Trial at the Palace of Justice in The Hague. These pictures were taken by press photographer Guus Schoonewille of Fastfoto and can be used freely under the following title: "Privacy First Foundation, 29 November 2010, Trial against the new Passport Act. Photo: Guus Schoonewille". Click on the picture of your choice to see a larger version which you can download using your right mouse button.


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Published in Litigation

Art photographer Maarten Tromp has made a beautiful photo series of the co-plaintiffs in our Passport Trial. Three of these photos are on the left and below in small size. A large number of pictures appeared on February 2, 2011 in Dutch newspaper NRC Next. The entire series of photographs can be seen on the website of Maarten Tromp.


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Published in Litigation

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