Will Tech Advances Destroy American Values?

26 Mar

 

NYT published an article today regarding cell phones and privacy. After a German politician took his cell phone company to court (T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom), he found out that over a 6-month span, the company recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates 35,000+ times.

Already, in the US, law enforcement uses phone records, locations, and saved conversations for cases ranging from drug trafficking to terrorism. Now combine that information with closed circuit TVs, traffic cameras, automated toll payment systems, and IP addresses, and you can learn a lot about someone; both useful and intrusive.

So what’s the big deal? If you have nothing to hide, what’s the problem? If you keep on sending pictures of your penis to strangers, do you think you really have the right to complain about privacy?

Here’s the thing… we rely on data mining technology companies for cell phone service and internet access. Of course there is going to be some sacrifice of privacy when a private company handles sensitive data.  But here is what I fear:

Technology induced police laziness How many of you have gotten a traffic camera ticket for running a red light? At what point will computers and surveillance systems be able to police our every move? If they have the sound and video records for EVERYTHING you do, how difficult will it be for the government to satisfy its burden of proof? As private companies expand on these technologies, won’t there be an incentive to bolster this kind of policing due to profit motive?

Doctoring of data Photoshop, video editing, and splicing can make people appear to be doing or saying something that they aren’t doing. As these kinds of programs are getting more and more complicated, how can we be sure that Google or whoever else isn’t planting data to suppress their competitors or political opponents? If the police subpoena AT&T for my cell phone records or longitudinal whereabouts, how can we authenticate that information reliably?

Revolution to stop tyranny With the widespread unrest in Arabia, I can’t help to think what would happen if a truly tyrannical regime or party were able to take power in the United States. To be clear, revolution would be clearly justified to restore the US Constitution and our form of governance. But how would patriots on the righteous side of the fight be able to overtake a government that knows exactly who you are, what you are saying, and where you are? Maybe it wouldn’t be that direct… What’s to stop the tyrannical regimes propaganda wing from feeding the masses lies about their opponents?

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