Bioethicist and biotechnology expert Lori Andrews has advised companies, politicians, and consumers about the impact of various technologies. She discussed her latest work on how our digital identities are starting to overshadow our physical identities, and the damaging effects of uncontrolled changes in privacy. There has been an increasing blurring between the public and private, with employers using social networks such as Facebook to glean information about employees and job candidates, often without their express approval, she observed. Law enforcement also peruses social networks, and can sometimes go overboard, charging people with gang membership, based on the pictures they post, she commented.
In what many view as invasive, a lot of websites use tracking and data mining to evaluate people for marketing purposes. This info can be used to select the type of ads you might see online, or even the type of offers you might get for things like credit interest rates, she detailed. There are also unscrupulous sites that post images and false or inflammatory information about people, and then charge a fee to have it removed, she continued. The judicial system too has been adversely affected by online issues, with jurors sometimes looking things up on the Internet related to their cases, and making decisions based on what they find.
Andrews is calling for a Social Network Constitution. "The best way to do this," she suggested, "is to extend rights we've had in other areas, to the web," such as the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and the right to fair trial. "Your Facebook page should be as private as your home and people should not have access to it unless there is some individualized suspicion, unless there's a warrant," she asserted. There has been some legislative interest around web privacy, but by and large the public has not been sufficiently riled up about the issue to press lawmakers into taking action, she noted.
First hour guest, specialist in cyber warfare and technology, Charles R. Smith, reported on issues related to drones. The unmanned aerial vehicles can be thought of as spies in the sky, and some states such as Florida, are trying to ban their usage due to privacy concerns. In addition to surveillance, drones have been developed for military uses and are becoming increasingly sophisticated and miniaturized, he said. Some units like the X-47 can function as autonomous carrier-based strike aircraft, programmed to perform missions without any human pilots aboard, he added.