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Marchant, Askland on PHX11


April 22, 2009

The potentially negative impacts of new technology on individual privacy were discussed recently by Gary Marchant and Andrew "Sandy" Askland, Executive Director and Director, respectively, of the Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, on a city of Phoenix cable television program.

Marchant and Askland were interviewed on "On the Issues," a program hosted by City Councilwoman Maria Baier on PHX11, a Phoenix cable station.

"We are at risk of turning into a surveillance society, with the explosion of computers, cameras, sensors, wireless communications, GPS, biometrics and other technologies feeding a surveillance monster that is growing silently in our midst," Baier cautioned. "The fact is there no longer are any technological barriers to the Big Brother regime portrayed by George Orwell."

Marchant said the technology of surveillance has exploded over the past few years. "The reason it's expanded so quickly is there are a lot of benefits from it," he said. "The problem is there's the other side of it, the more sinister side, the privacy invasion, and that's where we really need the law to keep up."

An example is the sequencing of the human genome, through which a great deal of individualized data has become available and is being used for treatment of illnesses and diseases.

"But this genetic data shows a lot of things about you that you may not want to know yourself, that you may not want to let other people know, and the problem is we're leaving our genes everywhere," Marchant said. "When you drink from a cup, you leave your DNA material there, and someone could take that cup to a testing facility and find out things about you that you may not want them to know."

He and Askland talked about technologies that enable merchants to track shoplifters using a tiny chip sewn into the stolen clothing, allow parents to place barriers around the limits of where their teenaged drivers can motor and help singles literally spot their ideal mates at 50 feet.

"These technologies have tremendous benefits, but they also have the potential for misuse, and we have no way to control the misuse right now," Marchant said. "The technology has come so quickly, and the law hasn't adapted with it."

To watch the program, click here.

Janie Magruder, Jane.Magruder@asu.edu
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law