Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homeland Security

I was watching the news yesterday when I heard about "Operation Virtual Shield" for the first time. For those of you that do not know what this is, it is to be a comprehensive surveillance system spanning Chicago in efforts to "protect against crime and terrorist attacks." These cameras are going to be linked to all cameras of the city - and they will be able to do such things such as being able to identify gun shots, change trajectory to get an image of where the shots came from, and alert 9-1-1.
Of course, the obvious question arises - what about the average individual's privacy? Sure, if you aren't doing anything wrong, then you don't have "any problem." The only issue I have with that argument, however, is prove it. Prove to me that just because I'm walking, going about my business as usual that I won't be harmed. Better yet, why does the government need to know that I'm walking down Madison Avenue? What does it matter to them if I pass Clark Street? Who is to say they aren't watching at all times? Who is to say they are not being voyeuristic with these new cameras?
Then, if that weren't enough, on foxnews.com today there is another article that claims "Homeland Security Detects Terrorist Threats by Reading Your Mind." The article goes on to say that "MALINTENT (which is the name of this new system), the brainchild of the cutting-edge Human Factors division in Homeland Security's directorate for Science and Technology, searches your body for non-verbal cues that predict whether you mean harm to your fellow passengers" (passengers, I'm assuming because this technology is to be used in airports). The article goes on to say that it will possess a series of sensors and imagers that read your body temperature, heart rate, and respiration for unconscious tells that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. It claims these "tells" are signals that terrorists and criminals may display prior to their crimes.
My thought on the matter is - what about those that might just have a fast heart rate? Or those that perspire because they are nervous by nature? Or what about those that have grown so paranoid to the Big Brother nature of the United States government that they display all these "symptoms of crime"? Does the government then stop this individual to interrogate him or her only to not deem their answers unacceptable and detain them? Talk about a paranoia dream come true.
And what if, for a minute we go back to Chicago and they initiate this new technology of MALINTENT into Operation Virtual Shield? What if someone is walking a great distance on a hot, humid day - and what if, that individual had just been reading something causing them to act "out of character" (like the fact their every movement is being scrutinized by the government) - will the Virtual Shield camera system focus on this individual who is perspiring with a greater heart rate - and will the police be dispatched to "further question" this individual that just so happens to be going about his daily business?
I really wish I had an answer - I really wish the government were not taking control of everything, but what I wish and what is becoming reality are two drastically different things ... frightening things, actually.

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