back to article Fujitsu pitched stalker-y AI that can read your social media posts as solution to Irish border, apparently

In the UK's quest to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, Fujitsu has reportedly pitched an artificial intelligence-driven process that analyses drivers' journeys and even social media posts. According to The Sun, citing a leaked briefing, the Japanese firm this month issued ministers and MPs with a proposal …

  1. JulieM

    Technological Solutions

    Technological solutions to social problems have, historically, been unmitigated disasters; and Laws of Nature have been proposed based on less evidence than there is for "Social problem + tech = bigger problem".

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Technological Solutions

      So, if I have a 4x4 and no social media accounts, I'm golden?

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Technological Solutions

        Is being signed up as an El Reg commentard going to count in Fujitsu's eyes? Darn it, we're all in trouble - no more Irish vacations and maybe we'd better stay away from Gibraltar too.

    2. Uffish

      Re: Technological Solutions

      I have been going back and forth across the Calais Dover link since the days of onboard passport checking and have come to believe that pretty up to date tech is already in use for screening and has been for some time. If you have triggered the system they (the UK authorities in the UK and, when they feel like it, the French authorities in France) will ask you to stop, get out and open the car boot. I guess that is for a very low level trigger but I guess also that is sufficient. If the authorities think this is necessary then a real smuggling suspicion must trigger a much bigger response.

      Where is any sign of tech which could eliminate the need for live checks of vehicle and driver - it doesn't exist!

      If the physical checks are for border control reasons it doesn't matter where they are done - they are physical border control checks.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    I've got the perfect solution

    It uses scientifically proven homeopathic probiotic quantum facial recognition and all the other things.

    I just need to get a billionaire Tory party donor on the executive board and we're pretty much guaranteed to get a contract.

    So who's in?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I've got the perfect solution

      You'll never get anywhere. It doesn't leverage a single thing.

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: It doesn't leverage a single thing

        Quite. And where's the synergy?

        1. Lord of Cheese

          Re: It doesn't leverage a single thing

          Not to mention blockchain

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Paris Hilton

            Re: It doesn't leverage a single thing

            We can backup the blocks along the M20.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: It doesn't leverage a single thing

              We'll need extra ferries in the Irish Sea to move the blocks to the M20. But that's OK, I know someone who has a mate who knows where to find a few and how to drive them.

  3. mark 120


    How do they propose linking social media identities to registration numbers? Will it be a mandatory field next time you register a vehicle?

    Even if the technology worked, which it doesn't, such remote coverage only lets you identify that an offence was possibly committed, and not the prevention of such offences. By the time the system has flagged that car reg 'SMUGGL3RS' has made ten trips across the border and turn right round again, there are ten smuggled loads of whatever in circulation. You can stop the 11th, and prosecute for it, but by then there's another hapless mule lined up and the crooks have made their money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF?

      ANPR clearly works, since otherwise the London Congestion Charge zone would have collapsed in a blizzard of lawsuits.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: WTF?

        Luckily ANPR is still illegal over here, for the most part. Police forces have been rapped on the knuckles for using the ANPR photos to try and find offenders of crimes. As the purpose of the ANPR cameras is for average speed on a piece of road, it is illegal to use the information for anything else.

        German bureaucracy for you.

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: WTF?

          In Ireland you can already get into trouble for posting a picture in social media with a vehicle license plate number visible.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: WTF?

            The same is true in Germany. All number plates must be obfiscated before they can be published, the same for people in the car, their faces and identity in general must be protected.

            Dashcams are also quasi illegal. A court did decide that the last 30 seconds before a crash can be used as evidence in court, but that's it. Showing it to the insurance company, the police or posting it online is illegal, as is having a camera that constantly saves footage. If it doesn't just keep the last 30 seconds, you can't use it.

            1. christooo

              Re: WTF?

              Thats based on the Flt and Voice recorders in aircraft which are thus to protect the pilots. Different reasons to a different data protection!

          2. Andrew Moore

            Re: WTF?

            Apparently it breaks "Data Protection" rules, but when you press them on which DP rules exactly it breaks, they go very quiet.

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: WTF?

              In Germany it is clearly defined. Any person, in public or private who is "featured" in a photo has to give their explicit permission before a photo can be loaded onto the internet or published.

              If they are part of a crowd in the background, that is okay, but if they are in the foreground, you need permission.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    What do the propose to do about the situations where the border runs through farms, even through houses?

    1. Doogie Howser MD

      They'll use a fleet of refurbished ED-209s, obviously.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Back in the days of the euphamisms it was common for farms to have large barns stradling the border.

        Tankers and large trucks would go in both sides and come out of the same sides - I'm sure nothing crossed the border without the necessary paperwork

      2. Inspector71
        Thumb Up

        I'd buy those for a dollar.

        1. JulieM

          Stick around, and they'll probably be selling them for a dollar through the same channel as those water cannon, freshly painted, never used.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Definition of "hard border"

    Despite the attempts of some to claim that leaving the EU Customs Union produces a "hard border", this actually refers to the time during the troubles when vehicular traffic was restricted to 20 checkpointed crossings by dint of blocking all the others.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Definition of "hard border"

      And we all know how well that worked out don't we ... if we get a hard border then all the pubs in Birmingham will close ... no customers any more.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "when vehicular traffic was restricted to 20 checkpointed crossings"

      IIRC there is about 1 road across the border for every mile of it.

      IE about 300 of them.

      AIUI stopping stuff going across the border during "The Troubles" was a massive PITA and not very successful. I'm guessing the UK could have deployed some of the stuff developed for Viet Nam ("McNamara Fence" AKA Igloo White) as planted sensors to detect foot and vehicle traffic.

      A cordon of drones? With high altitude units covering long swaths with more numerous ones ready to get in close for ANPR? They'd be logistics nightmare to maintain of course.

      Just another part of the that growing (negative) "Brexit Dividend" the Kwitters banged on about during the referendum campaign.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "when vehicular traffic was restricted to 20 checkpointed crossings"

        About two thirds of NI's exports and imports is with the rest of the UK. In the event of a backstop, all the EU bureaucracy will be applied to NI-GB trade, which is 4 times as large as all NI-ROI trade. It's also 2.5 times as large as all NI-EU trade.

        In practice, the backstop is far worse for NI than hard Brexit...

    3. christooo

      Re: Definition of "hard border"

      During the troubles it went from a trade and immigration border to a security one with good reason.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no mention of blockchain/ asked for the Japanese firm & DEEU comment

    Er, you've asked Fujitsu and the Dept. Exiting the EU why they have no plans to use blockchain?

    Well, I should hope so. A long chain made of computer generated cryptographic solutions placed along the cyberspace frontier probably wouldn't count as a physical border (although no doubt one side or other would still find a reason to object).


  7. Paul Smith

    Completly missing the point

    Today, a baker in Armagh can buy flour from a miller in Armagh or a miller in Dundalk and sell the bread he makes in Dublin or Belfast. No duties, no tariffs, no paperwork. By the end of next month, in a no-deal Brexit, or any deal not involving custom-union membership, the same baker will have to go through the same paperwork to import flour from Dundalk as he would to import it from Brazil. And exporting bread to Dublin would require more paper work then exporting it to China (and probably take longer!) because the EU would have to be satisfied that it (and everything in it, and every stage of its handling and processing) met all EU standards and conditions, *and* that it could not be obtained elsewhere within the EU.

    I really do not see how a social media app is going to help with that.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Completly missing the point

      Dairy is big.

      Milk produced in Ireland, bottled & made to cheese in N.I.

      Most of it then sold in Ireland. Even as Irish Cheese (but with UK NI CE tracing on packet).

      Same with bacon and sausages.

      The Good Friday Agreement basically assumes UK & Ireland in same EU, the Single Market and Customs union. Which means freedom of movement of EU citizens (which May opposes, even though NON-EU immigration, nothing to do with EU, is the big issue and varies from x5 to x8 bigger. Home Office picks low hanging fruit on that, often illegally!).

      So Brexit referendum seems to have had no research, no consideration of Scotland (You'll have to leave EU if you vote Independence!), Gibraltar or NI Good Friday Agreement. The Brexiteers STILL have no majority agreement on what Brexit entails or how to do it.

      Cameron has a lot to answer for. A Second referendum is no solution, because what on earth questions do you put on it? No Deal is not an answer, yet Parliament voted to make that the default rather than cancelling Article 50 at the original vote.

      The Article 50 clause was invoked with no analysis, or plan. The Future Trade is the only negotiable part. The actual Withdrawal Agreement is really box ticking defined by the Article 50 (which UK was main architect of) and limited by the GFA (which DUP NEVER EVER agreed to and want destroyed. Arlene Foster left Official Unionists and joined DUP because the OU accepted GFA and she didn't). T. May's red lines and GFA mean the Insurance Policy called the Backstop had to be added.

      If UK was going to leave Customs Union, Single Market, end free EU movement and ECJ for Brexit as the hard liners want, then the Withdrawal Agreement EU agreed with May was inevitable and people BEFORE referendum said that's what it would be. The Withdrawal Agreement was never going to be a negotiation, but box ticking. Only the trade deal, not possible till after withdrawal (and clear in A50) is a real negotiation.

      Other Trade deals: NO other trade deals can be FINALISED till after Withdrawl / Transition. Of the about 50 off 3rd Party deals EU has, the UK so far has only outline agreement to continue FIVE.

      I used to have to cross the border for work. I needed paperwork (carnet) even for my own tools and test gear. It was a hard border even apart from security checkpoints. They were not fun.

      "Why have you a UK driving licence and a Southern registered car?"

      -- "I used to live in the UK"

      "So what address did you used to live at in the UK?"

      -- "I've forgotten"

      "Please get out of the car slowly."

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: Completly missing the point

        "I needed paperwork (carnet) even for my own tools and test gear."

        I keep trying to explain about hassle like that to folk but then I just get branded as an expert who lacks the Dunkirk spirit :(

        1. Admiral Grace Hopper

          Re: Completly missing the point

          I work with a colleague who tells long and involved war stories about the niff-naffery, annoyance and frustration of carnets and export licences in the old days of IT. Absolutely dreadful to deal with, apparently. He voted to leave, obv.

    2. David Shaw

      Re: Completly missing the point

      driving through the Mourne mountains one day security checkpoints. They were not fun

      a bush on the roadside got up and pointed about twenty SA80's at me

      Squaddie with very very large lethal weapon " What side of Belfast are you from? "

      Me, (hopeless at troubles geography, east or west is best?) " Er.... Leeds "

      and I wasn't shot, so it seemed to be the right answer , back in the days.

      I did meet the guy (RSRE Malvern) who conceived & developed the first ever ANPR, for use at checkpoints in Norn Irn, and it was specifically for security use, (when designed anyway), and worked really well, a very neat design with the twin decision paths. ('Bob' gamed two competing teams for the recognition technology, both delivered, so both features were added into the first system)

      The Swiss border, that I cross regularly nowadays, is stuffed with ~5GHz (or 60GHz?) transponders - typically & solely aimed at trucks, trucks have an LED bar. The actual 'Zoll office booth is quite often empty, most of the day - but occasionally they jump out of a bush at you, many miles from the actual crossing point. They have much smaller weapons than the paras, thankfully.

      France have seriously mobile Douanes flying squads, who can be found 100 kilometres from any border, inspecting TV sets in transit for the prise peritel??

    3. christooo

      Re: Completly missing the point

      By the way no more millers in the Republic . Closed by EU like the sugar factories. + factor look at all the employment a border generates! Like the" just on time"in the motor industry with bits and pieces to and fro across the EU adding to cost but generating useless/ not necessary jobs

      EU regulations are not special,take Wicklow Chicken from Brazil sorry corrected now in a hurry to Netherlands.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I still have fond memories of the consternation caused by a group apparently smuggling 2nd-hand VCRs across the border hidden in a load of bricks in a pickup with no chassis number. It turned out that it was the bricks that were stolen. They'd have got away with it if they hadn't been overheard by an off-duty customs officer boasting about the red-diesel scam in a pub which got them stopped and searched next morning. Sometimes life exceeds all your expectations.

    1. baud

      Funny, the exact same category of fuel fraud exists also in France, called "rouler au rouge"/"red driving" except here the red fuel is for domestic heating.

  9. JimmyPage

    extra CCTV and number plate recognition cameras at the border

    AKA "target practice"

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: extra CCTV and number plate recognition cameras at the border

      The Chief Constable said they'd not last a week.

      I think that's generous.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Chief Constable said they'd not last a week.

        To be fair, the old lads will need a fair bit of practice after all these years. What with honouring the Good Friday Agreement and all.

        Mind you, the same could be said of the Brits - well what's left of the Army that is.

      2. christooo

        Re: extra CCTV and number plate recognition cameras at the border

        How do the ones that are there now and have been for years not tampered with.? This is just Brit bashing

        1. Mark192

          Re: extra CCTV and number plate recognition cameras at the border

          "How do the ones that are there now and have been for years not tampered with.?"

          Because we're still in the EU so there's few massive-scale smuggling operations going on.

          When sufficient people have a financial interest in them going, they'll be destroyed in short order.

  10. Alistair

    Y'know, the UK does have an option here. Collapse the United Kingdom, and secceed to Canada. We already have a pretty decent trade agreement wirh the EU. Y'all could be the 11th province.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: secceed to Canada [sic]

      Canada is associate of ESA. Moving towards EU.

      Maybe Greenland might rejoin EU (they left when they split from Denmark, the only place to leave the EU).

      Trump's proposed wall is longer than Donegal to Newfoundland distance.

      Donegal is a similar distance from Athens and Newfoundland.

      England should leave UK and become a USA colony like Puerto Rico.

      Gibraltar, IoM and Channel Is. then should become part of the new UK that stays in EU and lacks England. Despite UK No. 10 protests, Gibraltar, IoM and the Channel Is are NOT part of the UK, they are various kinds of dependencies. The renewed UK (clue in name?) could have the Monarch as Queen Elizabeth I of Scotland (she is currently), or become the Confederation of British States a republic, or be in the Commonwealth. Actually even a Republic can be in the Commonwealth.

      England can remain a Kingdom, renamed Kingdom of England, or Albion. With King Charles III in a few years time.

      1. christooo

        Re: secceed to Canada [sic]

        UK should take control of NI. seeing it hasnt got a government and that would solve the equation.!

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: secceed to Canada [sic]

        If Boris stays in charge, the UK will get similar status to Puerto Rico.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That isn't the worse idea I've ever heard...

      Our Queen is already your head of state!

    3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      So instead of saying "Quite." they'll be saying "Quite, eh?" eh?

      No to England being a US territory. We don't want an empire, nor do we want to be the world cops. Disclaimer - I am merely a US citizen, not a US politician.

  11. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Since they are watching "social" media ...

    How will this "no border" idea work with all the laws that NI insist they have in defiance of the laws in Ireland and the rest of the UK? We'd probably see more NI citizens arrested for considering an abortion than for smuggling anything. "You can't have any borders but we're going to keep our borders."

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blockchain? We don't need no steeenking blockchain

    I'm surprised that Fujitsu didn't mention blockchain, or indeed AI. Ever since someone told a senior exec that the future was blockchain and AI that's all we've heard about in every in every pronouncement from on high in Fujitsu. It's like Josephson junctions all over again.

  13. darklord


    Toll road systems already exist in the south. Surely half the infrastructure already exists.

    ITs only the Europeans thinking well use looholes to gain entry to the eu markets.

    Just like they do via Guernsey and Jersey back to the UK

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022