It’s a weird world. I know lots of grumpy old men like me lament that, when we were growing up, we were left outside to run about as we felt, find our own way to and from school, were encouraged to read more and exercise, and such like. It seems sad that kids today have to be ferried everywhere, we worry non-stop about the guy by the school gates, and kids must be encouraged to exercise more and put their mobile down.
Perhaps the space that I’ve personally seen the most change, and often for the worse, is in security. Security at airports is an obvious one, but security of transactions is another. It used to be a good old paper system of passbooks and cheques; then it became a card and a signature; then a card, signature and a PIN; then a card, signature and a Chip and PIN; then a card, signature, Chip and PIN and password; then a card, signature, Chip and PIN, password and token terminal; then a card, signature, Chip and PIN, password, token terminal and biometric.
It just keeps getting worse and worse.
I was reminded of this today, as I attended a convention where security scans the bag on entry. At one point, I left the convention by the wrong exit. Realizing my mistake, I had to go through all the rigmarole of security a second time. Then I got back to my hotel, one of the convention hotels, and got to my room on the top floor to find the key didn’t work. Trailing back to reception, they asked me if I attended the convention. I said yes. Ah, they said, the convention’s security systems wipes our hotel magnetic cards clean, they told me. I said, that’s a really good system for a convention hotel.
Pah! Can’t they think about these things?
All of this is really to provide context about why I’m a big fan of more seamless and less intrusive security. I like the idea of an RFID chip being placed in my arm or having facial recognition at airports and other public places. The reason I like it is that it could allow me to walk around freely without being stopped and security checked. Something I hate. I could walk through the airport and there would be no need for X-Ray scanners or passport checks. Just walk on by.
The thing is that there is equally a big resistance to chips in arms and faces being recognised. What about freedom and privacy? some cry. Well, I’m free and keep quite a lot private. I remember talking about this in Sweden, where a few thousand people have chips embedded under the skin to access building and travel on the public transport network. It makes life easy, but most Swedes don’t want it as they think the government can track and trace them. The government cannot, the chips are passive and not active RFID, but the idea of that is repugnant to most.
The same applies to facial recognition. Someone asked me what I thought about it and said it’s fine. The only people who don’t like are those who have something to hide. What have you got to hide? If you could have a nice, simple life, with no security checks as it’s all automated, is that not better than this crappy world of pat downs, X-Ray scanners and layers of forgettable barriers to cross?
I guess the debate will go on, and no doubt the anti-government Orwellians will win. Who wants Big Brother watching you? Too late. He’s watching anyway.