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Concern over privacy at Beijing Olympics

May 29, 2008

Times of India
May 28, 2008

BEIJING -- China has ratcheted up surveillance and security in every phase of the Beijing Olympics -- even the tickets.

In a move unprecedented for the Olympics, tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies are embedded with a microchip containing the bearer's photograph, passport details, addresses, e-mail and telephone numbers.

The intent is to keep potential troublemakers from the 91,000-seat National Stadium for the high-profile ceremonies. Along with terrorists, China's authoritarian government fears protesters might unfurl Tibet flags, anti-China banners or even T-shirts adorned with political messages.

Tickets for the August 8 opening ceremony are the most expensive of the games -- a top price of USD 720 -- and many are in the hands of dignitaries and friends.

The inclusion of such personal data on the microchips had raised concerns about privacy and potential identity theft, as well as threatening chaos at the turnstiles as officials try to match to tickets to attendees, creating bad publicity on opening night.

"They should be concentrating on sniffing out the kinds of dangerous stuff rather than worrying about the identity of the people with the tickets," said Roger Clarke, an Australian security expert. His Xamax Consultancy in Canberra advises businesses in online security and identity authentication.

"The way in which you recognise an evildoer, somebody who wants to throw a bomb, somebody who wants to unfurl a Tibet flag is not on the basis of their identity," Clarke added. "It's the act that they perform and it's the materials they carry with them."
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