In your Facebook

Facebook itself has been playing with this kind of thing – personal location – for a while. We’re all familiar with the various “check in” services, but the internet of things is something much more.

All attendees of the f8 developer conference are receiving special RFID tags that enable them to check-in to various locations throughout the conference venue. The service lets you tag yourself in photos, become a fan of various Facebook Pages, and share activity to your Facebook profile. While it’s still a concept service, it’s interesting to see some of the things that Facebook developers are currently testing

[From Facebook Tests Location Through RFID AT f8]

Is this just the same as messing about with FourSquare or Facebook Places? I think not. Bernhard Warner, editor of Social Media Influencer puts it very nicely.

Location-based services take either a lot of time — you have to manually check in everywhere you go — or take a lot of liberties — you open up your personal information to businesses.

If RFID checks you in and out automatically, then the web will certainly “take a lot of liberties” (although this may well be what people want). But this is just about the location of people. What will happen when the location of things becomes part of the natural order?

I happened to be chairing a panel at IIR’s M2M Business Exchange event in London recently, and I have to say that I was surprised by the range of organisations that came along. I’d assumed that it would be mainly hardware guys and telcos, but the sessions that they had on smart metering, remote healthcare, retail and so forth were actually discussing some quite diverse applications. Naturally, I was on the lookout for things that might make a business for our customers, so I was focused on the applications that demand more security, such as payments.

ETSI, the telecoms standards body, has been working on what they call SES, which stands for “Service Enablement Services” to form a standard layer between the internet of things and the value-added services to sit above them. Joachim Koss, the TC M2M Vice Chairman said that the standard would include security “tools”, which obviously I would like to see as including fully-functional digital money and digital identity elements because this connects to my somewhat simplistic definition: smart pipe = dumb pipe + digital identity + digital money.

I think this is the right approach, provided that the SES layer contains rich enough services to provide for a proper spectrum of identity types (that is, it does not require the full disclosure of “real identity” or allow uncontrolled anonymity). Another advantage that I can see is that if mobile operators were to get their act together, they might be able to use the SES in combination with a secure token (in the UICC) to make a business from it: for example, I might want to choose an option on my phone which means that my location is visible to anyone on LinkedIn provided they work for Consult Hyperion, and then temporarily extend this to a client for a month in connection with a project, but allow my wife to see it via Facebook at all times, that sort of thing. It would be another example of a value-added service that could, when built in to the infrastructure of other more sophisticated value-added services, generate much more income than raw data.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

Masters key

[Dave Birch] This whole internet thing is getting more and more complicated. I’m trying to work out what government policies toward the internet are, so that I can help our clients to develop sound long-term strategies with respect to digital identity. To do this, we need to understand how the security environment will evolve and what the government’s attitude to security is. Should people be allowed to send data over the internet without interference? The US government thinks so.

Since 2007, Congress has inserted a total of $50 million of earmarks into the State Department’s budget to fund organizations dedicated to fighting Internet censorship.

[From Rebecca MacKinnon: No quick Fixes for Internet Freedom – WSJ.com]

Uh oh. This cannot be popular with people in favour of internet censorship, such as U2’s boss.

U2 manager Paul McGuinness said that the only reason the music industry had tanked over recent years was not because outfits like U2 peddled the same boring crap that they did in the 1980s, but because of the introduction of broadband.

[From Comment: Broadband only useful for pirates – U2 manager screams blue murder | TechEye]

Setting aside the fact that the British music industry earned more money than ever before last year, U2 are totally wrong to expect the rest of society to pay to uphold their business model in face of all technological change. Bono is wasting his time calling for Chinese-style internet censorship in order to maximise record company profits, or at least he is if the US government is going to continue funding the opposition.

China syndrome

[Dave Birch] What should government policy on identity be? Not specifically our government, or EU governments, or any other government, but governments in general. Or, let’s say, governments in democratic countries. OK, that’s a very big question to tackle. Let’s narrow it down to make a point: what should government policy on the internet be? No, that’s still too big and perhaps to vague. Let’s focus down further on a simple internet question: should the government be allowed to see what is going through the internet tubes. Of course! One of their jobs is to keep me safe from drug-dealing Nazi terrorist child pornographers who formulate devilish plots with the aid of the web.

According to reports, the FBI is asking for the authority to require all Internet communications platforms build in a “backdoor” allowing law enforcement easy wiretapping access

[From Should Government Mandate “Backdoors” for Snooping on the Internet? | Center for Democracy & Technology]

In parallel, the FBI is talking to technology companies about how they could be making it easier for criminals to see your credit card details and for the government to read to your e-mail.

Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, traveled to Silicon Valley on Tuesday to meet with top executives of several technology firms [including Google and Facebook] about a proposal to make it easier to wiretap Internet users.

[From F.B.I. Seeks Wider Wiretap Law for Web – NYTimes.com]

This, superficially, sounds likes a good idea. Who could object? We don’t want the aforementioned Nazi drug-dealing child pornographers plotting terrorist acts using the interweb tubes with impunity. No right-thinking citizen could hold another view. But hold on…

In order to comply with government search warrants on user data, Google created a backdoor access system into Gmail accounts. This feature is what the Chinese hackers exploited to gain access.

[From U.S. enables Chinese hacking of Google – CNN.com]

It’s not that simple, is it? If you create a stable door, then sooner or later you will find yourself bolting it long after the horse has had it’s identity stolen. What I can’t help but wonder about in this context is whether the content actually matters: suppose you can’t read my e-mail, but you can see that a lot of mail addressed to Osama bin Laden is coming from my house? Surely that would be enough to put me under suspicion and trigger some other law enforcement and intelligence activity?

My multiples

[Dave Birch] I watched a strange TV show on a plane back from the US. I was about a woman with “Multiple Personality Disorder” (remember that book Sybil — not the one by Benjamin Disraeli — from years ago). I make no comment about whether the disorder is real or not (the TV show wasn’t that interesting) but there’s no doubt in my mind that when it comes to the virtual world, multiple personalities are not only real, but desirable.

Here’s a good reason for not having your Facebook account in your real name (as I don’t):

Five interviewees who traveled to Iran in recent months said they were forced by police at Tehran’s airport to log in to their Facebook accounts. Several reported having their passports confiscated because of harsh criticism they had posted online about the way the Iranian government had handled its controversial elections earlier this year.

[From Emergent Chaos: Fingerprinted and Facebooked at the Border]

I’ve already created a new Facebook identity and posted a paen to Iran’s spiritual leaders just in case I am ever detained by revolutionary guards and forced to log in. But will this be enough? Remember what happened to film maker David Bond when he made his documentary about trying to disappear? The private detectives that he had hired to try and find him simply went through Facebook:

Pretending to be Bond, they set up a new Facebook page, using the alias Phileas Fogg, and sent messages to his friends, suggesting that this was a way to keep in touch now that he was on the run. Two thirds of them got in contact.

[From Can you disappear in surveillance Britain? – Times Online]

So even if you are careful with your Facebook personalities, your friends will blab. As far as I can tell, there’s no technological way around this: so long as someone knows which pseudonym is connect to which real identity, the link may be uncovered. Probably the best we can do is to make sure that the link is held by someone who will demand a warrant before opening the box.

Recognising the problem

[Dave Birch] An interesting series of talks at Biometrics 2010 reminded me how quickly face recognition software is improving. The current state of the art can be illustrated with some of the examples given by NIST in their presentation on testing.

  • A 1:1.6m search on 16-core 192Gb blade (about $40k machine) takes less than one second, and the speed of search continues to improve. So if you have a database of a million people, and you’re checking a picture against that database, you can do it in less than second.
  • The false non-match rate (in other words, what proportion of searches return the wrong picture) best performance is accelerating: in 2002 it was 20%, by 2006 it was 3% and by 2010 it had fallen to 0.3%. This is an order of magnitude fall every four years and there’s no reason to suspect that it will not continue.
  • The results seem to degrade by the log of population size (so that a 10 times bigger database delivers only twice the miss rate). Rather fascinatingly, no-one seems to know why, but I suppose it must be some inherent property of the algorithms used.

We’re still some way from Hollywood-style biometrics where the FBI security camera can spot the assassin in the Superbowl crowd.

What is often overlooked is that biometric systems used to regulate access of one form or another do not provide binary yes/no answers like conventional data systems. Instead, by their very nature, they generate results that are “probabilistic”. That is what makes them inherently fallible. The chance of producing an error can be made small but never eliminated. Therefore, confidence in the results has to be tempered by a proper appreciation of the uncertainties in the system.

[From Biometrics: The Difference Engine: Dubious security | The Economist]

So when you put all of this together, you can see that we are heading into some new territory. Even consumer software such as iPhoto has this stuff built in to it.

face-rec

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. Consumers (and suppliers) do, though, have an unrealistic idea about what biometrics can do as components of a bigger system.

But Microsoft’s new gaming weapon uses “facial and biometric recognition” that creates a 3D model of a player. “It recognises a 3D model that has walked into the room and automatically logs that player in,” Mr Hinton said… “It knows when they are sneakily trying to log into their older brother’s account and trying to cheat the system… You can’t do it. Your face is the ultimate detection for the device.”

[From Game console ‘rejects’ under-age players | Herald Sun]

This sounds sort of fun. Why doesn’t my bank build this into its branches so that when I walk in?

Criminal inconvenience

[Dave Birch] It was identity theft week, or something like that, and since I’m about to start the CSFI’s 2010/2011 Research Programme into “Identity in Financial Services”, with support from Visa Europe, I’ve been thinking about the key aspects of the problem. For example: how well are current know-your-customer procedures working? After all, they are pretty stringent. To the point where the typical customer finds dealing with financial services organisations an absolute nightmare.

The ID banks require is getting beyond a joke. I’ve just been locked out of one of my online accounts, through no fault of my own, and they’re demanding I send them a certified document plus a utility/bank bill, but they won’t accept one printed online. Yet like many people, both for the environment and ease, I opt for paperless billing wherever I can, so I simply don’t get any printed statements anymore, leaving me at an ID disadvantage when banks refuse to count those as ID.

[From Martin Lewis’ Blog… | The bank ID farce: online accounts don’t accept online statements]

Still, I’m sure we’d all agree that it’s worth the massive imposition on customers, and the massive costs to companies, in order to crack down on ne’er-do-wells who are trying to defraud our banking system (at least, the ones who don’t work for banks). But since identity fraud appears to be at record levels, either these stringent controls are counter-productive (because only criminals will bother jumping through the hoops) or a total waste of money.

Drawing upon victim and impostor data now accessible because of updates to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the data shows that identity theft impostors supply obviously erroneous information on applications that is accepted as valid by credit grantors. Thus, the problem does not necessarily lie in control nor in more availability of personal information, but rather in the risk tolerances of credit grantors. An analysis of incentives in credit granting elucidates the problem: identity theft remains so prevalent because it is less costly to tolerate fraud. Adopting more aggressive and expensive anti-fraud measures is extremely costly and jeopardizes customer acquisition efforts.

[From SSRN-Internalizing Identity Theft by Chris Hoofnagle]

Given the amount of trouble I find in accessing my own accounts — I tried to log in to my John Lewis card account this week and it asked me a password that I’d forgotten and when I followed the “forgotten password” link it asked me for a secret word or something that I didn’t even know I’d set — I can only assume that the total amount of time, effort and money wasted on this sort of thing across the financial services sector as a whole is enormous.

Share and share alike

[Dave Birch] I’m not sure if it was a good idea to have National Get Online Week at the same time as National Identity Fraud Prevention Week and at the same time as announcing record identity fraud figures!

The National Fraud Authority (NFA) said fraudsters who stole identities had gained £1.9bn in the past year. Their frauds had affected 1.8 million people, the NFA estimated.

[From BBC News – Identity fraud now costs £1.9bn, says fraud authority]

As Philip Virgo notes, there appear to be some conflicting messages here and there may be some danger of a lack of strategic co-ordination.

Just after Martha had described her plans to the “Parliament and the Internet” conference last week, those at the session on “On-line Safety” discussed the need to bring the two sets of messages together lest they cancel each other out.

[From Mixed messages: “Get Online Week” v. “National Identity Fraud Prevention Week” – When IT Meets Politics]

I’ve scoured the coverage to find out exactly what it is that the “Get Online” campaign and the “Fraud Prevention” campaign plan to do about identity infrastructure and I’ve looked through the Cabinet Office “Manifesto for a Network Nation” (which does not mention identity or authentication even once) to find out what the British equivalent of the US National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace is but I’m afraid I’ve come up with a bit of a blank (although a search of the Get Online Week website did turn up one article that mentioned identity theft in 2008). Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places and a correspondent can point me in the right direction.

The UK national security strategy that was released last week does at least mention identity theft as a problem (it says that “Government, the private sector and citizens are under sustained cyber attack today, from both hostile states and criminals. They are stealing our intellectual property, sensitive commercial and government information, and even our identities in order to defraud individuals, organisations and the Government”) but doesn’t actually mention identity or authentication, nor does it put forward any suggestion as to what might be done about the problem.

Tripped up

[Dave Birch] Many people have a real problem with the apparently anonymous nature of the interweb. I say “apparently” because, of course, unless you work really hard at it and really understand how the internet works, and really understand how your PC works, and really plan it carefully, you’re not really anonymous in the proper sense of the word.

Our sense of anonymity is largely an illusion. Pretty much everything we do online, down to individual keystrokes and clicks, is recorded, stored in cookies and corporate databases, and connected to our identities, either explicitly through our user names, credit-card numbers and the IP addresses assigned to our computers, or implicitly through our searching, surfing and purchasing histories.

[From The Great Privacy Debate: The Dangers of Web Tracking – WSJ.com]

I’m surprised that politicians, in particular, who keep going on about how terrible internet anonymity is, don’t understand a little more about the dynamics of the problem. If they did, they would realise that anonymity isn’t what it seems.

You might think, after enough major stories about “IP addresses” hit the news wires, everyone in political life would be aware that “anonymity” on the Internet is limited.

But someone in Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ (R-GA) office didn’t get the memo. In the aftermath of this week’s failed vote on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, someone named “Jimmy” registered an account at the gay news blog Joe.My.God. just to say, “All Faggots must die.”

[From Outed! Senate staffers, anti-gay slurs, and IP addresses]

In the general case, you are not anonymous on the interweb, but economically-anonymous, which I propose to label “enonymous”, and that’s not the same thing at all. If you threaten to kill the President, you will be tracked down, and the state will spend the money it takes on it. But if you call Lily Allen a a hereditary celebrity and copyright hypocrite (not my own views, naturally) then it’s not worth the state’s money to track you down. If Lily wants to spend her own money on tracking you down and taking a civil action for libel, then fair enough, that’s the English way of limiting free speech. If the newspapers want to spend their own money on it, fine. For issues of great national interest, such as spurious death threats to the nation’s sweetheart, Cheryl Cole, The Sun can step in.

Yesterday The Sun traced the sender of a chilling anti-Cheryl message that blasted her over Zimbabwean Gamu’s TV exit. Wannabe rapper Sanussi Ngoy Ebonda, 20, admitted penning the sinister rant, which accused Cheryl of “da biggest mistake of your life” and included a threat to attack other girls sharing her name.

[From Cheryl Cole boosts security at mansion | The Sun |Showbiz|TV|X Factor]

So even though there’s precious little anonymity, should we allow enonymity to be the norm? There are plenty of people who think not, and they’re not all English libel lawyers. Surely common sense is on their side? Isn’t it wrong to let people hide behind pretend names?

Let’s focus on a specific and straightforward example. The comment pages on newspaper, magazine and other media web sites. Many such sites require registration but are still essentially enonymous. Is it right that enonymous commenters can say bad things about celebrities, politicians, business leaders? Would people be as horrible about public figures if they were forced to identify themselves?

Would the online debate among commenters be stifled by requiring commenters to sign their real names?

[From What did you say your name was? | Analysis & Opinion |]

The Chinese government certainly hope so.

China is considering measures to force all its 400m internet users to register their real names before making comments on the country’s myriad chat-rooms and discussion forums, in a further sign of tightening controls on freedom of speech.

[From China to force internet users to register real names – Telegraph]

We already know this doesn’t work, incidentally, because the Chinese already tried this for Internet cafes, supposedly to deal with the problem of young people spending too much time in virtual worlds. The only result was an instant, and profitable, black market in ID card numbers, whereby kids would get the ID numbers of people who weren’t going to play in cybercafes (eg, their grandparents) and used them to log in instead of using their own. There was an alignment of economic incentives here, because the cybercafes would not make money by turning people away.

Cafés that did not ask for identification often still had a registration book at the front desk, in which staff members were seen to write apparently random identification numbers and names during their free time.

[From HRIC | 中国人权]

Incidentally, another large and well-known country closely associated with our economic future (albeit a virtual one) has just abandoned plans to try and force Chinese-style real-name registration after a revolt by citizens (well, subscribers):

Blizzard has reversed a controversial decision that would have forced thousands of Starcraft and World of Warcraft (WoW) players to use their real names on the company’s online forums

[From Blizzard stands down over forum controversy | TG Daily]

I simply would not allow my kids to log in with their real names. I’m happy for them to log in using one of their multiple e-mail addresses. They’ve had pseudonymous e-mail addresses since they were old enough to go online. This isn’t just paranoia about people grooming children for sexual exploitation (the UK takes this kind of thing very seriously) and such like. There are lots of really good reasons for not wanting to use your identity in online debate and comment. I wrote once before about being shocked by some hate e-mails I received when I once posted some comments in a discussion about interest rates (“interest is the work of the devil”, “we know how you are” etc etc). Now, I still enjoy participating in online debates, but do so pseudonymously: my friends know who I am.

That, incidentally, may not be much of a protection, because the mapping of social graphs can soon locate you within a group of friends even if none of those friends disclose who you are. A determined third-party can learn very interesting things from those graphs and, unless everyone is anonymous or pseudonymous under certain conditions, figure out who you are.

Iran appears to be in two minds about whether to embrace or stymie technological progress. On the one hand, Twitter accounts helped the opposition mobilise demonstrations in the wake of last year’s contested presidential election… On the other hand, by monitoring Twitter traffic, Tehran was able to identify who was organising the protests.

[From FT.com / FT Magazine – Who controls the internet?]

As I’ve said before, in cyberspace no-one knows you’re a dog, but no-one knows you’re from the FBI either. Thus our government, the US government and many others are caught in two minds, just as the Iranians are. On the one hand, they are supposed to be in favour of free speech, but on the other hand, well, you know Danish cartoonists, criminals, child pornographers, terrorists, enemies of the state, dissidents, apostates etc.

Now, maybe you don’t care. You’re “not doing anything wrong.” Well, Hoder wasn’t doing anything wrong when he went to Israel and blogged about it in Farsi. But he’s serving 20 years in jail in Iran.

[From Emergent Chaos » Blog Archive » AT&T, Voice Encryption and Trust]

But back to online commenting in our democracy. It’s not a simple issue, and “common sense” is not a good guide to anything in the virtual world, but it is clearly the case that in that virtual world some people behave inappropriately. You only have to read The Guardian newspapers online “Comment is Free” or Guido Fawkes, the UK’s top political blog, to see how appalling, disgusting, racist, misogynist, anti-semitic and just plain thick the general public can be. I am one of those old-fashioned liberals who thinks that the response to bad free speech should be more free speech, not less. I think we should be wary about limiting the anonymity of people who comment online, even if we could think of a way of doing so.

The Nazareth District Court has upheld the right of the Walla Web portal to refuse to hand over the IP addresses of commenters accused of defaming a journalist.

“The good of online anonymity outweighs the bad, and it must be seen as a byproduct of freedom of speech and the right to privacy,” Judge Avraham Avraham wrote in his ruling last week.

The court also said the critical remarks concerning Yedioth Ahronoth reporter Israel Moskovitz, posted online in 2008, were unlikely to harm his reputation since they were poorly written and appeared only once, and readers were not likely to take them seriously.

[From Uphold talkbacker’s anonymity in defamation trial, court says – Haaretz – Israel News ]

Actually, for journalists to complain about online comments, criticism and even abuse is a tiny bit worrying, since their business depends on such.

It doesn’t take long to find articles on CNN that quote anonymous officials. For them to rage against “cowards” who won’t stand behind what they say, and then to regularly quote “anonymous” sources, seems pretty damn hypocritical. Phillips claims anonymity online is “very unfair.” Phillips also attacks the media for “giving anonymous bloggers credit or credibility.” But again, CNN quotes all kinds of anonymous sources all the time.

[From CNN Claims ‘Something Must Be Done’ About Anonymous Bloggers | Techdirt]

On balance, then, I think a free society not only permits certain kinds of anonymity but actually depends on them, because we need informed and honest public debate to function properly. This was well-put in the Washington Post recently.

For every noxious comment, many more are astute and stimulating. Anonymity provides necessary protection for serious commenters whose jobs or personal circumstances preclude identifying themselves. And even belligerent anonymous comments often reflect genuine passion that should be heard.

[From Andrew Alexander – Online readers need a chance to comment, but not to abuse]

I couldn’t agree more. However, as the Post goes on to note, we have to recognise that people can be pretty horrible and we need a way to deal with that. Not banning anonymity, but managing the anonymousness (if there is such a word) in a better way.

The solution is in moderating — not limiting — comments. In a few months, The Post will implement a system that should help. It’s still being developed, but Straus said the broad outlines envision commenters being assigned to different “tiers” based on their past behavior and other factors. Those with a track record of staying within the guidelines, and those providing their real names, will likely be considered “trusted commenters.” Repeat violators or discourteous agitators will be grouped elsewhere or blocked outright. Comments of first-timers will be screened by a human being.

[From Andrew Alexander – Online readers need a chance to comment, but not to abuse]

This — in essence, baby steps toward a reputation economy — could be toughened up by using better identity infrastructure, but it’s not a bad place to start. But there are areas where the better infrastructure is more of a priority. Newspaper comments are one thing, but there are businesses that depend on online comments, and a good example is the burgeoning group review sector.

It’s always, always the same

[Dave Birch] One of the reasons why a digital identity infrastructure ought to be more than just building a big database of everyone and then letting everyone have access to it is that the infrastructure will inevitably be abused by those on the inside, no matter how much effort goes into keeping out the bad guys on the outside.

Missouri Citibank employee Brandon Wyatt… accused of tapping Citibank's computers for customer information, then using it to set up checking accounts online with competing banks, including Bank of America, Washington Mutual and AmTrust. Wyatt allegedly wire transferred customer funds from Citibank to the new accounts, then cashed them out with additional transfers, checks, debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals. His take, according to federal prosecutors in St. Louis, was at least $380,000.

[From Fed Blotter: Citibank Worker Allegedly Plunders Customer Accounts | Threat Level from Wired.com]

It's hard to see how you can stop this from happening completely in an economic way, but what you can do is make sure that there is an audit trail so that someone how decides to have a go at this kind of fraud has a reasonable expectation of being caught. Although I have to say that armed bank robbers have a reasonable expectation of being caught (and a reasonable expectation of a long sentence if they are caught) but they still do it. Anyway, my point is that if you take people personal data and put it in a honeypot, there is only one outcome. A database is not an infrastructure.

That’ll do nicely

[Dave Birch] Some time ago, I pointed out that aggressive retailers might use ID cards to cut payment schemes out of the transaction loop, by using ID cards as payment tokens and using the ACH network rather than Visa or MasterCard and I subsequently wrote a piece on this for Electronic Finance & Payments Law & Policy. Having been thinking about this and other implications of the introduction of a national ID card scheme, I was surprised to hear from a bank that I was talking to that they had no strategy on the UK ID card (despite the fact that the first cards have already been issued) and no plans to develop a strategy. Now, on the one hand this is understandable, since the UK cards don't do much and there are no readers for them anyway, but on the other hand it may be unwise if other people are developing strategies that may impact banking.

As I have long been advising our clients in the payment space, there will be inevitable implications for retail payments businesses once a national ID card is in place.

[From Digital Identity Forum: Paying for identity]

Retailers want business change, not just lower fees, and has been discussed over on Digital Money, retailers may well be the key stakeholder group when it comes to developing new payment schemes for use at retail POS. Now, a barrier to their competing with existing card schemes themselves has been the cost of issuing and managing secure smart cards or other tokens. But if the government is going to do it for them, then they may as well exploit it. I can easily imagine taking my ID card and a blank cheque down to Tesco, putting them both into a machine and punching in my PIN. Then, next time I go shopping, I punch my PIN into the keypad at the checkout lane, wave my ID card over a reader and then go on my way. This kind of the service has already begun to spring up in the U.S.A., in response to the issuing of “Real ID”drivers’ licences which have machine readable magnetic stripes that can be read at POS terminals. A company called National Payment Card (NPC) has begun to exploit the opportunity, by getting customers to register their bank details and a PIN against their licence. This means that customers can then pay for fuel by swiping their licenses at petrol stations and entering a PIN. A similar national scheme has just launched in Malaysia, where one of the leading banks has begun installing kiosks where customers can use their bank chip card and the MyKad ID card (without biometric authentication) together to link the ID card with the bank account automatically:

Consumers will have to open either a savings or a current account with EON Bank, which is the only bank providing payment transactions through the MyKad at the moment.

[From Buy fuel with your MyKad]

The scheme is targeting the fuel sector in the first instance and has signed up all Caltex and BHP filling stations, so that customers can fill up and they pay at the pump with their ID card. Since the margins on fuel are thin, the sector has every incentive to cut payment schemes out of the loop and move to direct bank transfer via ACH. I wonder if they even bother to authorise the transactions: after all, if you try to cheat them by presenting the ID card when you have no money in the bank, they have your ID details and I imagine you'll be hotlisted pretty quickly.


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