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European geographical data at a very high price?

17 November, 2004
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Advocates of open source tools that use geographical data (GIS) are concerned about a new directive proposed by the European Commission on the use of governmental geospatial data. The INSPIRE Directive, adopted by the Commission in July 2004, aims to establish a spatial information infrastructure in Europe. It covers 30 broad types of data, such as (the location and the 3D descriptors of) buildings, forests, rivers, mountains, transport networks, all kinds of territorial definitions (names, postcodes, population and distribution of species) and all kinds of environmental indicators, such as occurrence of epidemics, pollution etc.

Critics say the consultation process has been unrepresentative, and fear that the proposed directive gives too much power to government data collection and licensing agencies. They argue that the directive imposes

Secret code added to most colour prints

3 November, 2004
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While printer-manufacturer Canon was awarded a Big Brother Award in Germany for secretly adding a unique code to every print-out made on household printing equipment, the practice is very wide-spread. Many laser printers seem to print-out a unique number on every print-out, invisible to the bare eye, measuring only 0,1 millimetre. The Dutch police has admitted to e-zine Webwereld that they have used these marks to detect the sources of print-outs, tracing individual printers through the vendor chain. "We are familiar with this research method," said Ed Kraszewski of the Dutch national police agency KLPD. "We are using it in our research and it has proven to be successful in the past."

Even though the spokesman would not give any further details on these successes, anonymous sources confirmed to Webwereld that the Dutch Railway Police, part of the KLPD, is investigating a gang that could be counterfeiting tickets on a large scale.

RFID workshop FIfF anniversary conference

6 October, 2004
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The RFID workshop organised during the FIfF anniversary conference (Berlin, 30 September - 3 October 2004) offered an excellent overview of the technical issues and privacy questions. Robert Gehring introduced the history of RFID, and explained passive chips were first used in World War II air-planes to detect the proximity of enemy planes. The chips were only adopted on a large scale in Europe in 1980s, as huge ear-labels on cows.

In 1999 the Auto-ID center was founded at the US MIT lab. The Center's research was focussed on robots, how they could move in a room with unknown objects. In stead of working on image recognition for the robot, the scientists decided to equip all the furniture with RFIDs and put the intelligence in the objects. After years of large financial support by the industry, on 31 October 2003 the Auto-ID Center closed down. Now several Auto-ID labs are collaborating with EPCglobal to create new standards for data storage and data retrieval.

EU prepares ban on banknote forgery software

25 August, 2004
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According to an article in the UK newspaper The Observer, computer and software manufacturers in Europe are to be forced to introduce new security measures to make it impossible for their products to be used to copy banknotes.

The move, to be drafted into European Union legislation before the end of the year, is presented as a necessary measure against people counterfeiting notes with the help of household equipment like laser printers, home scanners and graphics software.

Anti-counterfeiting software developed by the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group, an organisation of 27 leading world banks including the European Central Bank, has been distributed free of charge to computer and software manufacturers since the beginning of the year. At present use of the software is voluntary though several companies have incorporated it into their products.

Recommended participation: nanotech and DRM

4 August, 2004
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The European Commission is organising two interesting public consultation rounds, on nanotechnology and on digital rights management (DRM).

The consultation on nanotechnology invites public feedback on the communication 'Towards a European Strategy for Nanotechnology', in which the Commission proposes an integrated and responsible approach for developing nanosciences and nanotechnologies in Europe. All interested people are encouraged to take part by directly writing to the Commission rtd-nano-strategy@cec.eu.int by 30 September 2004.

Commission press release: How big is nanotechnology for Europe? (30.06.2004) http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/04/1005...

Online questionnaire about nanotechnology http://www.nanoforum.org

Recommended reading: privacy and biometrics

10 May, 2004
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The OECD working party on information security and privacy have published a very informative but dry report about biometrics. The report analyses theory and practice of the following major biometric-based technologies: finger-scanning, hand geometry, facial recognition, iris scanning, retinal scanning, finger geometry, voice recognition and dynamic signature verification. A brief description of other, more obscure biometric-based technologies such as ear geometry, body odour measurement, keystroke dynamics and 'gait' recognition (specific perambulatory movement) is also provided.

Avoiding any grand statements about the desirability of some of these techniques, the report concludes: "The extent to which we are willing to incorporate statutory and policy and technological controls into these systems and technologies will determine the extent to which they will improve our quality of life; providing convenience and security or conversely, the extent to which they threaten our liberty and freedom via actual or potential surveillance and control."

EU Commission wants to RFID everything

21 April, 2004
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EU COMMISSION WANTS TO RFID EVERYTHING

The European Commission considers it to be part of the Lisbon Strategy - and therefore a top priority - 'to have smart dust and tag everything' with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). The point was made by Rosalie Zobel, Director of the Information Society Technologies (IST) programme at the Commission, in her opening speech of a one-day workshop on 'wireless tags research needs' in Brussels on 20 April 2004. Mrs Zobel thinks this aim can be achieved and dreams of it being "the source of a new set of business models and creator of high quality tech jobs".

The workshop was part of a consultation process in relation to Work Programme 2005-06, which covers the second half of the EU's Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6). The Work Programme will be officially published at the end of October, and is likely to contain three calls for projects that may be funded by the EU in the field of RFID technology with a total of 180 Million Euro.

Recommended reading: Genetic data

7 April, 2004
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The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party has adopted a working document on genetic data. The technical progress which science has made over recent years in the field of genetic research has given rise to new data protection questions and concerns in relation to the significance and impact of genetic tests and the processing of genetic data.

The document states that any use of genetic data for purposes other than directly safeguarding the data subject's health and pursuing scientific research should require national rules to be implemented, in accordance with the data protection principles. The application of these principles render the blanket implementation of mass genetic screening unlawful.

In addition, the ease with which genetic material can be obtained without the knowledge of the data subject and the relevant information can be subsequently extracted from such material, requires strict regulations in order to prevent the dangers related to new forms of identity theft.

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