Thursday, September 22, 2005
Someday, Your Dandruff May Snitch On You 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
WIRED News has an interesting Bruce Schneier piece that asks questions about the future of privacy laws - and what might happen when a not-so-big-on-"privacy" Chief Justice decides the constitutionality of developing surveillance technologies:
[John] Roberts is 50 years old...he could be chief justice for the next 30 years. That's a lot of future...[and] the decisions of the Supreme Court on these questions will have a profound effect on society.

Here are some examples. Advances in genetic mapping continue, and someday it will be easy, cheap and detailed -- and will be able to be performed without the subject's knowledge. What privacy protections do people have for their genetic map, given that they leave copies of their genome in every dead skin cell that they leave behind? What protections do people have against government actions based on this data? Against private actions? Should a customer's genetics be considered when granting a mortgage, or determining its interest rate?

New technologies will be able to peer through walls, under clothing, beneath skin, perhaps even into the activity of the brain. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) rhetorically asked Roberts: "Can microscopic tags be implanted in a person's body to track his every movement.... Can brain scans be used to determine whether a person is inclined toward criminal or violent behavior?" What should be the limits on what the police can do without a warrant?

Quoted in a New York Times article...privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg laid out this scenario: Sometime in the near future, a young man is walking around the Washington Monument for 30 minutes. Cameras capture his face, which yields an identity. That identity is queried in a series of commercial databases, producing his travel records, his magazine subscriptions and other personal details. This is all fed into a computerized scoring system, which singles him out as a potential terrorist threat. He is stopped by the police, who open his backpack and find a bag of marijuana. Is the opening of that backpack a legal search as defined by the Constitution? [read entire article]