Are satellites the new threat to our privacy?

Surveillance proficiency of all sorts has proliferated. CCTV cameras are ubiquitous around the world and have been so readily accepted by the public that the next generation of spying is all ramped up. But we might not like this version. That and the notion that satellites and drone technology might contain more than we bargain for is the subject in an opinion piece written recently in New Science.

The authors fret that Cold War gadgetry has advanced so dramatically that satellites and drones will increasingly be used even for the most mundane tasks. They also opine that we are too complacent in allowing them to pervade every aspect of life.

While these gizmos can’t tell what book you’re reading from outer-space, they can intrude into your activities in ways they never could before. Things like high resolution filming and thermal imaging open a Pandora’s box of possibilities for video being used as evidence in trial. Or, more commonly, one might be captured arriving for a job interview and doing something out of the ordinary- seemingly in private – that might cast the applicant in poor light. Drones used by corporations or governments will operate indoors and out – no one and nothing will escape their electronic gaze.

This possibility has thus far avoided public scrutiny and debate largely because the focus has been on other types of government and corporate spying- mass gathering of data and the like presently has center stage. But it is apparently a hot issue in the legal arena as images from above are increasingly appearing as evidence in the courtroom. In fact, the world’s first space detective agency has been launched. While the ability to settle boundary disputes with the use of aerial imagery is welcome, the potential for abuse of imagery is also prevalent.

As a people, we have meekly submitted to the existence of CCTV with the maxim that,”if you have nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” This will ring hollow as we allow greater, more varied satellite and drone spying because we don’t know the extent it will be employed or its potential effects. For example, arcane as it may seem, certain kinds of sexual behavior – even among consenting adults – is illegal in certain parts of the world. Who would welcome becoming a thermal image appearing first in a courtroom, then maybe on YouTube? This development obviously represents a change in public surveillance. It’s no longer just speed cameras on the motorway.

Complacency won’t do when it comes to satellites and drones. They threaten civil rights and freedom of movement. Think about it. Think about the places you go for escape such as the park or the seashore. They no longer will afford privacy because the possibility of ’an eye in the sky” will be present.

What do you think about the issue?

Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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