New fronts in surveillance vs privacy
MIT Tech Review reports that terahertz sensing technology is nearing maturity. One of the first applications is in stand-off scanners allowing police to check people for concealed weapons from a distance. Current models have a range of about 15ft, but should be able to be tuned for ranges up to 75ft. The scanners will allow the current “stop and frisk” policy of stopping people on the street for questioning and if they have “reasonable suspicion” – a lessor standard than “probable cause” that can lead to a search warrant – they conduct a pat-down search for weapons.
Law Enforcement advocates taut the tech as a way to protect police who are often assaulted or even shot during such episodes. Privacy advocates cry foul claiming this is a further erosion by remote sensing technology of constitutional protects from “unreasonable searches and seizures”. They argue that remote scanning technology has the potential to make physical searches for many types of items unnecessary, and importantly, conducted without the subjects knowledge. “The Fourth Amendment doesn’t vanish when you leave your house” a privacy advocate maintains.
The tension between “fair use” of information about what you do online and within stores and the spectrum of privacy expectations people have is increasingly going to cause dust-ups in both the real and virtual worlds