Friday, 1 October 2004

UK announces "Semaphore" traveller surveillance scheme

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair this week announced the UK counterpart of the US-VISIT, CAPPS-II, and Registered Traveler programs in the USA: the co-called “Semaphore” program.

It its official statement on the “Semaphore” program, the UK Home Office is much more forthright about its intentions than the USA Department of Homeland Secuirty has been about its traveller tracking schemes. In particular, it’s very clear that the purpose of the mandatory biometric (and perhaps RFID — the technbology isn’t spelled out) traveller ID credentials, and the government acceess to reservation data, is the compilation of a lifetime dossier recording the movements of each traveller:

A high-tech programme to modernise and strengthen the United Kingdom’s borders, including electronic embarkation controls, will be underway by the end of this year, the Prime Minister announced today.

The £15 million pilot scheme - known as Project Semaphore - is the first stage in … effectively recording people as they travel into and out of the UK….

Project Semaphore will initially target six million passengers a year travelling on a number of international air routes to and from the UK. It will use on-line technology and advance passenger information provided by airlines before arrival to screen and record individuals as they enter and leave the UK, providing a comprehensive passenger movement audit trail.

It will be the first phase of the full implementation of e-Borders from 2008 which will rapidly expand to encompass all movements in and out of the country…. It will … ensure we can have clearer records of those entering and leaving the UK.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said:

“… the Government intends to bring in its ambitious e-borders programme … which will work alongside biometric ID cards from 2008 onwards…. by efficiently recording people travelling into and out of the UK, using airline reservation information and capturing passengers’ biometric data….

“Project Semaphore, which will be underway by the end of the year, is a key first step in putting in place comprehensive electronic analysis of passenger travel data, which will be crucial to being able to register entry and exit….”

As usual, John Lettice has an ascerbic dissection of the implications of the “Semaphore” program in The Register .

Meanwhile, USA Attorney General John Ashcroft has been in Europe for meetings this week with European Union leaders and negotiation of agreements on the ” exchange of information” between the EU and the USA. The full texts of the agreements have not been released, but I have a hunch they may include language intented to authorize use of data in airline reservations originally collected in the EU for testing of the USA Secure Flight scheme, in which airlines and CRS’s that operate in the EU would otherwise be forbidden to participate.

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 1 October 2004, 15:14 ( 3:14 PM)
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