Almost seven years ago, I wrote a blog post on The Transparent Society, David Brin’s insightful text on the delicate balance between privacy and security. The book, published in 1998, foretold the day whe be in a surveillance society. While the specifics of technology were not known at the time he wrote the book, he foretold a day when cameras were everywhere and your daily movements could be tracked. As the quick apprehension of the Boston Marathon bombers has shown, technology, specifically cameras, are now playing a key role in criminal investigations and tracking the movements of specific individuals. We are in the Transparent Society.
So now we all congratulate the law enforcement involved and agree that all this surveillance is a good thing, right? While I certainly applaud the quick apprehension of the suspects (and mourn the loss of life), I think we also need to consider the society we are becoming. Is it really worth giving up some of our freedom, our privacy, to be more secure?
From security cameras to mobile phone cameras to surveillance drones, we are being watched everywhere we go. Add to this the facial recognition technologies, and we can now be “watched” via software. Just the way we use drones right now has raised many ethical questions.
For many, the standard response to this is, “I have nothing to hide, so it doesn’t really affect me.” This is understandable, but it is short-sighted. The ability for a government to project power so easily, both with surveillance cameras and drones as well as with armed drones, should make us all pause and reflect. Shouldn’t it?
Taking it further, as technology progresses, we will begin seeing the private use of drones. Drones will become smaller and less expensive (as all technology does) – soon we all may have our own drones for our own uses: checking on the kids while they are at camp, watching the house on vacation, remotely attending a LIttle League game, or maybe tracking the movements of people we do not like. Do you see the possible problems here?
So what can be done to address these issues? Let’s start by having some conversations about it. This needs to be front and center for policymakers. No matter what we do, technology will march on – let’s just be sure that we are prepared for it when it gets here.
What are your thoughts? Share with me in the comments.