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Just cameras and cards for Xmas this year

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OK, this bit is more roadwatch than webwatch, but as a Christmas public service may I warn you about speed cameras. In the interests of massive police revenue supplements, sorry, 'road safety', you are being watched and fined and awarded points by computer via a new and hideous breed of camera, apparently hidden in those new electronic motorway signs - certainly on the M5, M6 (where my mole has already been done) and the M42.

Doubtless others will follow soon if they haven't already: Kent county is said to be up to something similarly lucrative right now.Apparently, instead of reading your spot speed over a short distance and flashing doom, they click silently and compare your speed over the several miles between signs using number plate recognition.You wonder why such massive computing resources were not devoted to something useful such as voice and handwriting recognition.Unless, of course, number plate recognition is just as inaccurate.Rumours about London congestion charging suggest it is.

So too with David 'King Herod'Blunkett's biometric ID cards.Can't help on retina faking, but readers interested in creating fingers for biometric fingerprint readers using household gelatine and Silly Putty might be interested to look at www. dansdata. com/uareu. htm.

For background you could also read Evaluation of biometric security systems against artificial fingers by one Johan Blommé, but I'm going to keep that URL to myself until he's nominated for next year's IgNoble Awards for earnest but stupid science research.Actually, forget Silly Putty because, as the many doubters will tell you, biometric cards are secure only if the data on file originally came from the person to be identified. If people can be persuaded (as they have recently) to reveal their bank details via email, just as many dopes will queue to provide copies of their biometric data for the scamsters as soon as the Big Brother Blunkett initiative gets under way.And think of the fun of creating brand new virtual people from faked up biometric data.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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