Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Rest Easy, America. UPS Is On The Job

I ordered a replacement passport a few days ago from the British Embassy in Washington DC.

All UK passport applications made in the US, at least, this part of the US, now have to go there because the embassy in NYC isn't a full embassy any more. It works if you want to flee there, as well as it ever did at any rate, but no longer deals in credentials of the border-security-assuaging kind.

I expected it to take a while, what with the passport being one of the new "secure1" tech-enabled passports but I got a call on Friday that UPS2 needed my signature for a parcel delivery that day. The call was from a highly informative robot that offered no way whatsoever for me to intervene in the doomed-to-fail3 attempt to deliver my passport to me.,/P>

Accordingly, I arrived home to find a little sticker on the door telling me they would attempt redelivery on Monday, what we in the Stevie family would come to call the Waste of Time Plan4. Mrs Stevie had a growl over an extra large mug of piping hot Mochachino pH3 Espresso Forte Con Cushion and decided she would intervene, since she works near a UPS depot. It might be possible for her to pick up the parcel if we could find some acceptable way of authenticating her.

Which turned out to involve her calling up with the delivery number and saying "I want to pick up the parcel".

Reflect a moment on the process involved here. I go to a great deal of trouble to get photographs sized to a new requirement designed to make a computer's life easier5 and spend a small fortune to pay for the RFID electronics that will allow the process of clearing immigration at an airport to take no more than an additional fifteen minutes while simultaneously allowing an Al Qaeda terrorist armed with moderately easy to get technology to steal the passport digitally from inches away like, behind me in an airport queue, without the need to remove the document from my pocket. The British Embassy, having found me to be trustworthy and rich enough to afford the documentation that says I'm who I actually am, go to the trouble of preparing said document and send it via what they believe to be a moderately secure courier service. The courier service leaves the only required identification document stuck to the front door of the house.

The lucky terrorist, in need of a new identity and on the lookout for any break, only needs to see the paper and grab it, make one phone call in which their own right to the materials is never requested or demonstrated in any way, shape or form and hey-ho another perfectly legal document with state of the (broken) art anti-terrorist technology is in the hands of the very people it is supposed to be used to hinder.

So that plan worked then.

I now have the document in question in my possession. It was mailed in a plain envelope with no anti-sniffing measures taken whatsoever, so for all I know the forces of evil may well have already nicked the passport by scanning the bloody envelope it got sent out in. I wish politicians would make more than a token fbleeping effort to understand the power, the limitations and the liabilities of the technology they so blithely mandate be brought into play in the War Against Pigbleeping Terrorist Bastards. They are worse than the most nitwit trekie I ever encountered6 for not being able to tell what is real and what only works on TV.

And thanks to the new computer friendly "no glasses" rule I don't even look like me in the bleeding picture it took so much time and effort to take.

  1. i.e. highly insecure in the absence of improvised faraday cages
  2. The embassy won't use any other method for passports. They feel, with some justification, that a service that requires a signature is safest when sending this sort of document long distance
  3. Since I was in Brooklyn and so was my writing hand
  4. See footnote 3
  5. And just when did we start making our appliances’ lives easier at the expense of our own for Azathoth's sake?
  6. At a Creation Con, about ten years ago

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