Professor Katina Michael posted to the Uberveillance website in July 2013 shortly after the ISTAS13 conference - http://sites.ieee.org/istas-2013/ - a short post about the onset of Opal cards use on the Sydney public transport circuit - http://uberveillance.com/blog/2013/7/8/opal-travel-cards-by-kai-reimer?rq=opal
Literally two years later I found myself teaching ethics and social informatics (ISIT203) in the workplace at the University of Wollongong. At the time I would catch the train down from my parents home in Sutherland New South Wales, Sydney and disembark at the train station in Wollongong, New South Wales opposite the University.
As I lived in Canberra my commute also involved a trip to Sydney by bus, then the train trip to Wollongong via train for three days of the week. For many years I had avoided public transport and driven the whole journey but for some reason this year I decided to buy an Opal train 'ticket' pass. I walked to the train station and was told the Opal card could only be bought at the local news agent store close by the rail station. I thought that rather odd but walked and tried to get the card there only to be told that I needed to put $10 minimum 'credit' on the card.
Perplexed I returned to the train station and inquired at the customer counter as to why I was unable to purchase a paper ticket that would only have cost me $7.00 return. The station master informed me that as of that day, 10th August, 2015 that the whole Sydney commuter service would be switched over to a 'paperless' RFID enabled commuter card system called Opal over a three moth period.
I asked if I could please purchase the very last of the paper tickets which he agreed to.
Paper ticket in hand I got on the train at Kirrawee railway Station and by the time I had reached Waterfall railway station I was confronted by three uniformed Opal security staff on the train who were moving from commuter to commuter and 'checking' their Opal cards by scanning these via a handheld PDA looking device that showed them their credit spend or availbility on their card.
When they got to me they asked me for my Opal card and I stated I didnt have one, presenting them with my paper ticket issued at the Kirrawee Railway Station. They looked at it and stated I needed an Opal card or I would be fined for not having it - $250 on the spot fine. I presented my case and was informed I needed to produce identification with photo to verify my identity.
I replied that there were under no jurisdiction to ask for photo identification and their reply was to disembark the train at the next available station which was Heathcote railway station. I informed them I was teaching ethics and social informatics in the workplace at the University of Wollongong and that would cause me to be late. They replied that if I did not disembark they would radio in and be accompanied by Police. The train left the railway station and we continued on our trip which meant the only way I could disembark would be at the next station which was over 25 minutes away.
During that time they contacted NSW state police and were granted the right to issue me with a fine if I did not comply and provide photo identification. I gave them my drivers licence and using their radio system and their internet enabled mobile tablet device they crosschecked and confirmed my identification. They took photos of my drivers licence using their handheld device and informed me that this was being sent to their 'operatives' who would confirm it's validity.
I was astounded that this apparent breach of my civil rights by unknown entity could force me to surrender that identity and cross check it against systems I was even aware of existing. I was issued with a warning notice, written on a card that stated my personal records had been recorded in the Opal system as not having a 'valid form of travel'.
I stated that the paper ticket was purchased and issued as a valid form of travel on that day. Two officers remained with me and began asking me questions about my state of mind and my capacity to understand their role as a judicial officer with the capacity to issue law enforcement statutes as I was travelling now on a state based railway system that is contracted to Opal as the the travel infringement agency. I retorted that I was well in charge of my own faculties and questioned them as to whether they understood that their alteraction with me (which by this time had gathered a crowd on that train) was prime subject matter for my ethics class when I disembarked from the train.
As the train pulled into North Wollongong railway station I was ushered off the train and again I was read the riot act by two NSW state police officers who informed me that whilst I did have a valid train ticket ( they had radioed the station master in Kirrawee) that I was going to still be issued with a 'traffic infringement notice' and that the incident was still going to be entered into the 'system' as they called it. Ten minutes later after again checking my staff card for the University of Wollongong and my drivers licence they stated that I would be required to purchase an Opal card as a PhD student through the UOW student services office.
I was informed that I would be issued with a 'sticker' that is then attached to my student identification card that would 'validate' any purchase I might make against an Opal student card in the near future. Perplexed I asked the Opal officers who were still present why their Opal travel system was only available for purchase via the student services administration office and they informed me that identification systems matched, validated and issued the Opal system card according to the enrolment status of that individual. Not believing what I was hearing I proceeded to the campus and was informed by the UOW student services personnel that the information I was told was correct.
I walked to the coffee shop, bought a double strength cappuccino and sat down in a daze. A few minutes later a UOW security officer and another individual who identified himself as an 'Opal representative' confronted me as I sat on the campus grounds. I asked them both what they were speaking to me for given that my case was dismissed with the two NSW Police officers. They informed me that my 'aggressive questioning manner' with the UOW student administration had been reported. I asked if they would like to access the CCTV footage of my interaction with the staff member as I had recalled that a CCTV camera was installed at the front counter where the student administrator had interacted with me.
I knew that my questioning was quiet, not confronting and if anything an expression of disdain for their system of corporate inculturation. That perplexed them both and I stated I was late to teach my class and they walked away without any further incident.
I photographed them both as they left.
An hour later I stood at the lectern and using the slideset for my presentation engaged 35 or so of my students in the lecture theatre in a debrief of what I had just experienced. As we picked apart the ramifications of the information systems, networked identification and mobile enabled database crosschecking as well as the systems enforcement the whole experience resonated with students strongly enough for them to start questioning the future trajectory of where Opal might be taking this supposed expedient, efficient and interconnected system in the near future.
I held up my paper ticket and a number of students remarked that they had never actually seen a paper based train ticket as they had transitioned from secondary school into their first years of higher education using an electronic identification and student RFID enabled card for transport. Their recounts of how Opal was implemented in their two years prior astounded me as it was presented them to as a binary and mandatory mandate not an opt in choice.
The lecture and tutorial that followed is one of the most memorable in my teaching career to date.
So during that tutorial I listened to, engage with and recorded a range of possible trajectories that Opal might use to bring about awareness of the surveillance, the networked identification and the trajectory of technologies currently as hand held or wearable RFID enabled cards. The predominant scenario that we identified was that Opal would be likely to partner with digital identification management corporations (DIMC) to enable implanted technologies in humans that do away also with the need for a card.
The mapping we produced as a series of group based drawings demonstrated that these novice engineers, these students of the looming third millenia, had an understanding of the perceived and the actual trajectory of technology, which in their estimation included human implantable enabled technologies to triangulating a human entity as a corporation lead identity.
Today I awoke to the news that a Sydney based biohacker has leapfrogged and piggybacked that scenario by literally implementing that via a DIY test. His efforts contravene the Opal statutes for where the Opal chip can be located as it has 'escaped' the Opal branded plastic card yet I believe it sets a wilful and devastating precedent - that of implantable, embedded networked identification management of humans, subject to corporation lead control of entity.
"...Bio-hacker Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, his legal name, had the Opal near-field communication (NFC) chip cut down and encased in bio-compatible plastic, measuring 10 millimetres by 6 millimetres. He then had the device implanted just beneath the skin on the side of his left hand."
The article is available at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-27/sydney-bio-hacker-has-opal-travel-card-implanted-into-hand/8656174
You can also read about this via https://au.news.yahoo.com/nsw/a/36184329/opal-card-chip-inserted-into-hand-of-sydney-train-commuter/#page1
The very same network are 'threatening' to outlaw that implant however, the cat is out of the bag. The precedent has been set and the socio-ethical implications of this handheld to implantable technology is underway.
Here is what they are seeking to do - http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-28/opal-card-meow-meow-implant-could-be-deactivated-by-authorities/8658986?pfmredir=sm
In essence, what I predicted in conjunction with Dr. MG. Michael and Professor Katina Michael's plethora of past publication predictions two years ago has come to fruition literally in the very same locale and within the same network and scenario base which I had been calling on my students to consider from a socio-ethical perspective.
The following gallery of images is from my own personal lifelog and provides evidence of my story.
My personal and professional view is that the trajectory of implantable DIMC is in earnest and that it will only be a matter of years before we see it as a real and actual optin then mandatory implementation across many different global communities. This dangerous step towards an Uberveillance is the very basis and constitution of the PhD that I'm enmeshed in at present.
I returned from Wollongong to Canberra a few days later and on my way to buy some groceries at a shop I passed in my car a digital roadside sign that pretty much summed up that weeks experiences. 'INSERT MEMORY CARD' it reads and I chuckled to myself thinking through how many mistakes humanity will be making as it tries to fast track itself to success only at risk of imploding the entire anthropocene due to our avid engagement with individuals who design systems to control humanity and have little regard for others well being let alone their own ability to know what 'well being' means in the first place.