THEY’RE WATCHING US
How much privacy do we still have in our day-to-day lives, and for how much longer are we likely to be able to enjoy it? It’s a question that should be concerning us far more than it apparently is. The ‘Big Brother’ of 1984 alerted us to the way surveillance techniques were developing, but no one could have envisaged the speed at which our privacy laws are being eroded. What is extremely worrying is the fact that, according to surveys in both the USA and the UK, about 75% of us want more, not less surveillance.
This is due in no small part to the fear of terrorism, and the perceived necessity to track and observe suspicious individuals who may threaten us. Understandably, it involves the development of ever-more sophisticated tracking devices, and the ability to record increasing amounts of data. Some of the more recent advances made in surveillance technology are both impressive and quite frightening in their scope. No one denies the value of this work in fighting terrorism, and crime prevention and investigation, but how easy might it be to abuse the powers that it gives to those in authority?
In Maryland, just outside Washington D.C., a team has invented the next generation of citizen surveillance, which involves matching facial images to gait, height, weight and other elements, so that a person can unsuspectingly be identified and tracked through a crowd.
Another development is a computer that is able to simultaneously translate a whole range of languages, to enable non-speakers to understand conversation around them in a foreign place. Then there is the unmanned aeroplane that will be able to stay aloft for up to five years, responding to camera focus instructions! Perhaps the most frightening development of all is the one that most closely approaches the Big Brother concept – the technology that will enable surveillance to enter the final safe refuge, our homes. This sense-through-the-wall technology currently exists to tell us whether someone is standing on the other side of a wall, and even goes so far as to give breathing and heart rate.
Perhaps the idea from science fiction of monitoring people through screens in their homes is not here yet, but the technology to do it is. And scientists themselves say that technology will soon exist which could lead to the scanning of people’s thoughts! How’s that for an invasion of privacy?