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Australia: The Road to Digital Tyranny

The days of personal freedom are fading. Photo: ASF

Once upon a time, the personal life of the individual citizen was considered to be a sphere of absolute privacy, where one could reliably escape the prying eyes of the outside world.

Today, this concept has been eroded with the rise of new mechanisms used to capture, aggregate and analyse massive amounts of data from cameras, sensors, smartphones and social media sites.

Australians have incrementally signed away rights and privileges that other generations fought for, undermining the very cornerstones of our democratic cultures in the process, Ethan Nash argues.

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING

In George Orwell’s famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, one of the most profound aspects of the tale centers around the notion that citizens are constantly monitored on an around-the-clock basis

From the workplace, to public gatherings, even places of residency — all individuals are monitored by a variety of surveillance instruments used to reinforce party control over citizens of the state.

At the time the prophetic book was published, the type of capabilities described seemed almost impossible by current standards: How could the world possibly be watched 24 hours of the day?

In the modern era, the road to a similar dystopia also begins through the lenses of CCTV cameras, however unlike Orwell’s vision, have developed to include advanced capabilities such as facial recognition, movement sensors and even abilities to read the emotions of citizens being recorded.

Sweeping legislative changes and broad anti-terror laws have since sanctioned powerful intelligence methods, including the development of biometric capabilities for government and the private sector.

In Perth and Melbourne, new CCTV surveillance technology that can recognise your face, tell your gender and track your movements are now active across CBD locations.

In Darwin, local authorities have introduced an additional 138 CCTV cameras in the CBD to police “crime and anti-social behaviour” and to “protect organisations that may face security risks”.

State leaders signed an agreement to hand over driver’s licenses and passport photos for real-time CCTV facial recognition, underpinned by plans to develop a national facial recognition database.

The new announcements, which paint a grim picture for the state of individual privacy in Australia, are not limited or isolated in nature — and are beginning to appear in a diverse variety of fields.

One of the most recent examples of this expansion surrounds plans to roll out facial recognition in New South Wales across Sydney public transport networks as an alternative to the ‘Opal Card’.

The announcement made by the NSW government is strikingly similar to plans underway in QLD, which includes palm vein scanning and facial recognition trials to replace the ‘Go Card’.

Currently, facial recognition technology is indefinitely deployed across Gold Coast public transport, including trains, trams and buses, following introduction at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The next-generation system, currently in the beginning stages in the United Kingdom, is another example of Australia’s shift towards a biometric country — which also includes moves to replace passports with facial recognition capabilities by 2020.

Some may ask, why then are the Australian government so ambitious to spread these surveillance systems through the fabric of our society? What could be the reason?

THE RISE OF ‘SMART CITIES’

Although many see the emergence of biometric identification capabilities for services and devices as merely the consequence of the technological age around us, plans to monitor and record collective activities are actually a driving factor behind a much larger agenda. 

Behind the scenes, the Australian government has committed to a new “Smart Cities Plan” in recent years, which sets out the ultimate vision for “productive and liveable cities”.

No longer the vision of futuristic science fiction programs, the emerging ‘smart city’ industry is set include the integration of physical, digital and human systems in a built environment, to deliver a ‘sustainable’, ‘prosperous’ and ‘inclusive’ future for citizens.

Darwin and Perth are key locations in this new federal plan, which is currently being introduced in both areas, along with other cities and regions such as Adelaide, Newcastle and Melbourne.

Some of the features set to be included across a national ‘smart grid’ are increased CCTV camera surveillance, LED ‘smart lights’ and sensors, pedestrian trackers, city monitoring systems and ‘environmental analysers’ — to understand details such as air quality, pollution and temperature.

The authorities proudly admit the new initiative is part of Australia’s significant contribution towards the achievement of UN Agenda 2030’s ‘Sustainable Development Goal’ 11.

Concerns have been raised by civil liberty advocates across the country in regards to the scope of power that facial recognition and smart technology will enable, and what oversight will be in place.

Darwin Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis recently spoke with the ABC and dismissed smart city “conspiracy theorists” who voice opposition to the development of new infrastructure.

Everywhere you move and everything you say — all set to be recorded by a network of high-tech cameras, sensors and devices, designed to monitor and analyse the behaviours of millions.

The plan is set to be underpinned by high-speed 5G technology, which is predicted to be completely rolled out in 2020, assuring maximum accuracy, performance and efficiency of the systems.

5G will serve as the underlying glue that will hold together a national spider web of technologies set to bring about an unprecedented era of surveillance, inequality and injustice.

LEARN MORE

This feature piece continues to cover:

IoT and 5G technology, the “Forth Industrial Revolution”, Agenda 2030, China’s ‘Social Credit System’ in Australia and much more!

Ethan Nash from TOTT News has published this article in the latest edition of New Dawn Magazine — available in newsagents across Australia or directly online by clicking the link below: 


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