Now, “bugged” washing machines to help in surveillance of Australian citizens

Canberra, Jan 7: The Australian Law Reform Commission has said that washing machines could soon be fitted with radio frequency identification equipment, known as RFID, which is a surveillance device that can store information and transmit it to a data-processing system.

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, the “bugged” washing machine might add to concern that Australian citizens already have about being monitored, bar-coded and scoped by their government.

The citizens’ concerns range from their whereabouts being checked, the company they keep, how they make money and how they spend it.

The disturbing fact is that RFID is already being widely used in keyless car entry; security tags on clothing, CDs and other items in department stores that activate readers at exits; animal tagging; timing marathon runners; and access control for secure premises.

A discussion paper by the commission on a review of Australian privacy law states that, "Some uses of RFID technology raise privacy concerns."

"In particular, concerns arise about the ability of agencies, organisations or individuals to surreptitiously collect a variety of data related to the same person; track individuals as they walk in public places (airports, train stations, stores); enhance profiles through the monitoring of consumer behaviour in stores; and read the details of clothes and accessories worn and medicines carried by customers,” the paper added.

The concern for this unwarranted surveillance is heightened by the fact that individuals may not be given notice that the products they purchase or the objects they use contain RFID tags and may not be given the choice to remove or disable RFID tags.

But though traditionally, Australians have been wary of such "Big Brother" developments, opinion polls show that - like Americans and the English - Australians now tend to support more rather than less surveillance.

This new trend is mainly because of the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001, which changed much of the opinion that Australians have about public places being monitored by high-tech equipment like CCTV’s (Closed-circuit Television).

According to Athol Yates, the executive director of the Australian Homeland Security Research Centre, security and surveillance technology boomed in Australia after

“Although many expressed concerns, most had come to accept the intrusion, especially after closed-circuit TV helped identify the London bombers in 2005,” said Yates. "CCTV has become so commonplace now that people just don't notice them anymore," he added.

"When the public becomes aware that a security technology can or is being abused or is ineffective, then that is the strongest safeguard against governments or organisations abusing the technology," said Yates. (ANI)