Is Auckland Transport lying about their new mass surveillance system?

By   /   October 8, 2014  /   6 Comments

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I want to come back to the claims by Auckland Transport that their new upgrade of the traffic surveillance system won’t be used for mass surveillance purposes.


I want to come back to the claims by Auckland Transport  that their new upgrade of the traffic surveillance system won’t be used for mass surveillance purposes.

Here is Auckland Transport’s response again…



The Stuff story got a few things wrong.

Auckland Transport currently has five video systems which it inherited, this will bring it down to one processing system.

We are not installing new cameras, this is a “back end” system for the approximately 1800 cameras we have access to covering intersections, railway and busway stations. Initially we will be doing a trial using 100 cameras.

The system will be used to monitor traffic flows, vandalism and safety. We will not be using any capability which identifies faces or number plates, our cameras do not have the ability to do that.

Let’s be very clear NO information is being sent to the United States. Information can be stored on our system in Auckland for a maximum of 7 days.

We are working through draft policies with the Privacy Commissioner and will make the policies public before any changes are made.

This is a $2million upgrade of a system we have had for 10 years, there is nothing new here other than that we are going to one processing system and we are introducing some automation.

Mark Hannan, Media Relations Manager, Auckland Transport 


…now, I responded by pointing out that Auckland Transport can promise us that their system would never be used for mass surveillance purposes and that it wouldn’t matter…

here is why everything the winged monkey from PR has to say doesn’t mean a damned thing. The TICS legislation that National rammed through last year was the enabling legislation of the GCSB mass surveillance law. It means that any telecommunications network, including the one Auckland Transport run, can be tapped on the shoulder at any time and told to allow the GCSB to hop a ride on their network AND Auckland Transport are gagged from telling us that their network is being bugged by the GCSB. 

Mark Hannan can get all 181 members of Auckland Transport’s management team who now earn over $100 000 a year to film a Youtube clip where they open singing Kumbaya My Lord, follow it up with a sworn oath statement on a  stack of Bibles that their camera system will never be used for mass surveillance and close while humming Michael-row-the-bloody-boat-ashore and it won’t make a lick of difference.

Once the network has the capability  of mass surveillance, it will be tapped by GCSB and Auckland Transport will be gagged from informing any of us that they’ve done that.

…but I want to go a bit beyond that by suggesting that Mark Hannan is actually being incredibly disingenuous with the truth. Hannan makes the point that the current cameras don’t have the ability to do face recognition, well here’s what a reader posted to TDB regarding the camera issue…

Modern CCTV systems on the small scale are typically older Analogue Camera’s fed to a Digital Hard-disk based recorder, and digitized in realtime into binary streams of information, which are then compressed with a lossy CODEC just like a camcorder or gopro camera would do. Sometimes they are digital all the way from the image sensor to controller in the form of Ethernet, but it makes no difference for the purposes of this comment. Usually the rack mount controller unit (you can see in your local dairy or store) has about 8 to 16 separate Camera inputs. The function of the customised Controller/Hard Disk Recorder is to record all those camera feeds simultaneously to hard disc, and to offer processing of the imagery during this or afterward. Capabilities differ but face tracking or AI enhanced recognition is pretty standard these days as well.

…so not only are Auckland Transport’s assurances worthless because the TICS Bill will gag them once the GCSB is tapping their system, but the defence Auckland Transport is using that their cameras aren’t capable of doing what HP is boasting might also be bullshit.

I come back to the point – why the hell is a poorly supervised Council Controlled Organisation doing setting up a camera system that will be used to identify criminals and terrorists?

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  1. Blevins says:

    What needs to be ascertained from Mark Hannan specifically are the following points.

    1) Will the “back-end” processing systems provided by Hewlett Packard, consist of computer servers which are hosted or based in a New Zealand datacentre or will they be in another country? And if so, which one?

    2) Have they consulted with a security penetration testing company in order to ensure that hackers or surveillance agencies are not able to intercept the network infrustructure illegally? (As has been proven to happen regularly around the world.)

    3) Have they trained their IT staff in being resistant to “social engineering attacks” ? eg, a person calls claiming to be from the ISP and manages to convince the staffer to release logins to their internal WAN.

    4) Why do they persist in maintaining the verbal doublespeak that the Camera’s themselves are responsible for facial recognition? This is completely not true, as the Camera’s are simply the input to the “back end system” which as we already know is going to be upgraded by HP with custom hardware and software. Software is flexible and can have functionality added at a future time.

    Once again it would be possible for HP or AT to add integration at a future time with facial recognition plugins or metadata crawling systems which pull information from other networks such as social networking websites, DIA passport databases, police databases, driver licensing databases, car number plate databases, toll billing databases (some of which already use automated number plate recognition and are run by auckland transport). Considering that they have admitted a specific intention to use the system to fight crime, this implicitly suggests that they already have a legal framework with which to allow realtime access to and from police systems.

  2. Blevins says:

    Here is a link to HPs “Social Media Aggregator” system. I wonder if Auckland Transport will be implementing it now or at a future time after sufficient scaremongering about all the supposed terrorists lurking in our midst by either our compliant media or our sycophantic current government?

    This should make it clear to doubters what we can expect in the future if the Privacy Commisioner fails to see the bigger picture relating to the massive Privacy Issues the new HP enhanced camera system backend could potentially create. HP have already integrated realtime scanning of social media systems like Twitter and Facebook into their analytics systems as can be seen from the link above. Note how one of the functions is euphemistically referred to as “sentiment detection”. It demonstrates just how advanced the AI aspect is already.

    I strongly suggest that people watch the HP Product marketing video in the stuff website article to see what the extended system is capable of. Who needs the NSA when you have HP eh!

    It’s kind of weird to think that the agency responsible for Transport is now combined into our Security Services. I don’t use most forms of Social Media personally so please can some of you who do, post links to these excellent TDB articles far and wide? Thanks in advance. We all know how our mainstream media are not going to cover this issue in much depth, so we have a responsibility to raise awareness amongst our fellow citizens. We have a right to be concerned.

    • Blevins says:

      Sorry part of that was incorrect, the qouted phrase should be “sentiment analysis” as per HPs marketing.

  3. word says:

    Ex Labour president Mike Williams is a director of Auckland Transport. No wonder he wants David Cunliffe out in favour of Grant Robertson. The right wing faction of Labour can’t have the party go left under David Cunliffe can they?

  4. […] covered plenty of ground. And I’ve been listening! It’s thanks to you that I’m wondering how Auckland Transport’s new surveillance package might discriminate against the poor, reminding myself that New Zealand’s mediascape differs from […]