Has anyone ever thought about the new transport system being adopted in Metropolitan Sydney and the reasons behind this project? Yes, I agree there are many benefits to consider such as the integration of different types of public transport in different locations, time spent when boarding/exiting vehicles and the ease of use when recharging our cards. However, the government will be able to tell exactly who, when and where any of us use any sort of public transportation.
“Registered Opal cards, which are linked with users’ names, addresses, email and phone contacts and bank accounts, provide the authorities with the ability to track a users’ journeys across the public transport network by time and date (SMH 2015)”. They are not only collecting individual and, in my opinion, extremely personal data such as our real time location, they will also be able to identify demographic facts and trends.
The Opal card also serves as a great data collection tool for the government, complementing other data management systems already in use by authorities. “Apart from police and immigration department, other agencies permitted to request Opal data access include the police forces of other states, the NSW Crime Commission, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW and other states, the Department of Corrective Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice and other agencies as the government sees fit to include (SMH 2015)”.
The sense of anonymousness, if there was still any left, has gone along time ago. Of course once paper tickets become obsolete you will still have the choice of paying in cash for your trip, but after considering the time you would spend in a queue and the fact that many services are “prepay only” during peak hours you will probably change your mind. As with everything, people are slowly and softly induced to change their minds. For the ones who do not use public transport at all, the toll system can work as a way of mapping your location or even the credit card transaction used to fill up your car’s petrol tank. How about your address printed on your driver’s license? It is understandable for the government to have your address in their records, but is it necessary to make it visible to everyone who sees your Id? People in Australia are not minding being watched with a close eye (Pietsch & Aarons, 2012).
This sense of conformity can be linked to the fact that Australia is under high terrorist alert. Many political manoeuvres that somehow result in important data collection are supported by national defence propaganda, alleging that such steps are necessary to ensure national security. But is safety worth giving up your privacy? The data retention law passed a few months ago gives government power in terms of surveillance never (legally) seen before in this country. In my opinion, even worse than the bill itself or even the way Opal cards were planned to work is the complacency of general population towards all of what is happening right in front of our eyes. We can never forget that “authoritarian states pay heed to their citizens’ civil rights only to the extent that they serve the interests of their regime (The Australian 2014)”. Dark history periods have taught the world that nothing is more important than an individual’s privacy and liberty. Information can be dangerous once it can be used for both construction and destruction.
SMH 2015, Opal card data surrendered to police and immigration authorities, viewed 18 August 2015, <http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/opal-card-data-surrendered-to-police-and-immigration-authorities-20150521-gh76wn.html>
Waldron, J. 2003, Security and liberty: the image of balance, The Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 191–210.
The Australian 2014, Balance between security and civil liberties is crucial, viewed 18 August, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/balance-between-security-and-civil-liberties-is-crucial/story-e6frg8zx-1227063214174>
Shearer, D. 1998, Crime and social disorder in Stalin’s Russia [A reassessment of the Great Retreat and the origins of mass repression], Cahiers du monde russe : Russie, Empire russe, Union soviétique, États indépendants, vol. 39, no. 12, pp. 119-148.
Pietsch, J. & Aarons, H. 2012, Australia: identity, fear and governance in the 21st century, ANU E Press, Canberra.
Citizen control TV 2015, Posters, viewed 18 August 2015, <http://www.citizen-control.tv/posters.html>