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thunderingaardvarkAI and Robotics

Nov 18, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)



Tanner Dvorak

Professor Moore

Academic Writing and Research

12 March 2013


Achieving complete privacy in t
hese days is nearly impossible. Most believe they are
living halfway private lives, but, then again, most people are not aware of the
different aspects of
their lives that are being invaded daily without their knowledge.

Some might be disturbed at how
very public their identities really are.
The privacy vs. safety debate has existed for many years
but is once again being resurrected beca
use of advancements in technology and
recent terrorist

Lawyer, Wendy Kaminer, takes this privacy vs. safety debate head on in her essay,

Trading Liberty for Illusions

In this essay Kaminer explains that Americans allow the
government to im

a plethora of


security measures because the common people
are being driven by fear. Kaminer

describes this manipulation by fear as normal as she lists
countless examples throughout American history where well
respected presidents have violated
perfectly innocent civilians’ freedoms in a time of “crisis.”

Kaminer’s primary concern is with the re
cent development of facial recognition
technology. She believes this kind of technology is inefficient and inaccurate. Kaminer presents
an example of an American Civil Liberties Union

report in which police

used facial recognition
technology on the streets

of Tampa Bay, Florida

and the technology “’never identified even a
single individual contained in the department’s database of photographs…[instead] the system
made false positives,’” including matching people’s faces to photographs of people of the

ite sex (398).
Kaminer also blames the failure of facial recognition technologies on human
error. She points out that these programs require databases that must be constructed by police
who maintain a bias nature to who this particular technology is progra
med to identify.

The Economist
a weekly magazine that is published in England by The Economist
Group, portrays facial recognition technology in a more positive light

in the article “If Looks
Could Kill.”

The Economist Group admits that most of the techno
logy that they are discussing is
still being studied and tested, but assure readers that the technology is improving. This particular
article describes a much more advanced technology than does Kaminer’s article
. The Economist
Group’s facial recognition pr
ogram not only recognizes faces but actually predicts the behavior
of a person based on the face scan. These programs are able to learn what threatening behavior
looks like

and signal security officials to the location
. For example, machines like these can

reason that loitering at a bus stop is completely normal, but someone loitering in a stairwell

might require some looking into
The Economist Group boasts that some facial recognition
technology can even detect expressions

that are

known as micro
expressions which are barely
noticeable in real
time. These expressions are so subtle that the expressionist themselves do not
even realize what they


The article does concede that innocents will inevitably
become entangled w
ith this new technology thus violating certain privacy rights of these by

Catherine Price’s
The Anonymity Experiment

describes the events of her experiment in
which she attempts to become completely anonymous for an entire week.
Price warns that

certain advances in technology warrant new privacy laws that are not being created. The laws of
our society are not keeping up with these rapidly advancing technological developments.

continues her point saying how the laws in place that protect pri
vacy have so many loop holes in
them that they are really considered to be a joke.

Price focuses on more contemporary technology like cell phones

and simple internet
surfing rather than facial recognition technology. Price explains that everyday technolog
y like
one’s phone can be used to track that individual regardless of if the phone is in use or not. The
reason for this tracking system is so 911 calls can be located for a faster response time, but Pric
warns that

this cell phone tracking
could be appli
ed to other applications without our knowledge.

Price notes that even something as simple as accessing the internet leaves bread crumbs that can
be tracked. There are a couple of ways that one might go about concealing one’s internet history.


sites like Anonymizer successfully veil one’s internet activity. Price acknowledges
that some doubt the actual security of sites like these because no one really knows
whether or not

Anonymizer actually erases its subscribers’ web

history, and there are m
any conspiracy theorists
who believe the government has infiltrated sites like Anonymizer and is relaying precious
information from these so
called “hidden sites.”

The only other alternatives are borrowing one’s
neighbors’ open connections or using public

Each of these pieces also mentions terrorism as the reason why privacy is being invaded.

Kaminer believes that the government uses terrorism as an excuse to infringe upon the rights its
people. Kaminer provides several examples throughout the Unit
ed States’ history in which
innocent citizens’ rights were ignored due to a threat in the nation’s security

The focus of this
point is on the Bush administration when they

detained over one thousand immigrants in the
wake of the September 11 attack, even

though the vast majority of them had no apparent
to terrorism” (Kaminer 398)

Kaminer states very clearly (as is apparent from the title
of his piece) that fear induces people to willingly give up liberty for the illusion of security.

Price, on
the other hand, believes

that a loss of privacy does combat terrorism, but believes that
the cost of this loss is unknown, so one cannot know if the sacrifice of privacy is worth the
safety of the country. As more and more companies and agencies a
ttain the personal
information of others, it is inevitable that these entities will succumb to human error or deviance
that will lead to a data breach releasing valuable information

that is not meant for public eyes.

The Economist Group also brings up terr
orism in their article
saying that, with a certain new
technology that is being developed, terrorism can efficiently be snuffed out by detecting
expressions that give away intentions.

hough these three pieces contain some quite contrasting points to
wards the privacy vs.
security debate, much can be learned from them. Perhaps this age old debate will never be
solved, but, whether or not the debate is solved, society will continue to move forward with
technologies that were once thought impossible and
showcased in science fiction books.