After the failed Christmas airplane bombing, authorities have focused on possible methods to prevent such an attempt in the future. The technology of choice seems to be new full-body scanners that create an image of a person down to the level of his or her skin. While likely effective at detecting contraband, the scanning creates obvious concerns about privacy, especially since some question the usefulness of the technology at preventing alternative tactics.

We live at a pivotal point in history. There is a great need for preventative measures (in this case, against terrorism, but in other cases against things like file sharing), but the current technology does not quite satisfy that need. As a result, we attempt to make do with what we have. While capitalism should ensure that the great file sharing scare largely dissipates once online streaming is perfected, the same impetus does not exist for privacy. If nobody complains about a technology that intrudes into our lives, it can easily become the status quo. This leads to a gradual erosion that does not become clear until it is too late.

Of course, it is entirely possible that people are no longer concerned about their privacy. The quantity of personal information that people post online indicates either that privacy is no longer highly valued or that many people are naïve about the availability and/or desirability of such information to others. If the latter is the case, many may soon be in for a rude awakening. If the former, I have to say that I hope that a majority of us still want to keep that privacy. This requires that we do not sit back and assume that peering technologies will eventually be scaled back. Most likely, they will not. So, if you want to make sure that freedom stays free, let the powers that be know that you want to see less intrusive measures instituted as soon as possible.

Steven Reilly

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