We’ve always heard that “big brother” is watching us, but future surveillance technology is turning it up a notch, which may leave some people even more uncomfortable. Forget about facial recognition, what if technology could determine who you are by the way you walk or how your heart beats?
Brace yourselves, because it’s no longer science fiction, it’s a reality.
Types of Future Surveillance Technology
One new type of surveillance technology that’s already being tried out by police in China is something called gait technology. It stores information about the way someone walks in order to identify them. You don’t even need to show your face because your feet will give you away.
Here in the US, the Pentagon has a new device that can spot someone by the way their heart beats. A new laser-based device called Jetson can detect a heartbeat as far away as 200 meters. The laser takes about 30 seconds to get a good read and it can’t work through heavy layers of clothing. Nevertheless, Jetson is said to be 95% accurate, and who knows how much more effective it can become with future iterations.
Microbial cells can also tell a lot about you without you even knowing it. It’s estimated that we emit around 36 million microbial cells every hour. If someone were to keep track of our microbial trial — and those microbes that we picked up from the places we went and the people we saw — they could paint a picture of our activities and movements without ever asking us one question.
What This Could Mean for Us?
If these new methods of surveillance have you cringing a bit, you’re not alone. Katina Michael, a professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering at Arizona State University, tells Parentology she believes this type of technology will result in many stressed-out children.
Michael believes this type of technology may tempt people to act differently because they know they’re being monitored. On one hand, this could be seen as a positive since it may force people to act better if they know their actions can be used against them.
However, “Society will make a decision about you based on this information,” says Michael. She adds that these surveillance methods may also lead to cases of invasion of privacy and discrimination.
While we may be fearful of these types of surveillance methods, there may also be some benefits.
“This technology can help with missing people,” Michael says. “There are ways to institute this, but you don’t need to do it through facial recognition.”
As surveillance methods continue to evolve, Michael says we have to look at whether they make us better as a society.
One type of surveillance that is being questioned as to whether it’s improving society is the use of the Amazon Ring app. Ring makes wireless security cameras that many people use at their doors. It also accesses police data to let residents know about crimes in their area and connects them with law enforcement, encouraging them to report any suspicious behavior.
Products like these allow data sharing and storing through a network of remote web servers known as the cloud.
Daniel Ives who researches Amazon at the financial advisory firm Wedbush Securities recently told NBC News, “In so many investigations, time is of the essence, and this enables many police departments to access data so much more quickly and in forms that are much more helpful.”
But, privacy and civil liberty advocates worry that the partnerships Ring is making with local law enforcement creates new government surveillance and could be an invasion of privacy. They have asked Amazon to stop selling its facial recognition software and other serves to law enforcement, but Amazon shows no sign of backing down.
According to NBC News, Amazon says it has a duty to help law enforcement agencies.
Future Surveillance Technology — Sources
Katina Michael, professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering at Arizona State University