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Bridges to the Future

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Bridges forum tackles privacy and technology

By Jordan Ames

November 14, 2005

The political process, not the court system, is the best way to reach a reasonable and sensible balance between safety and privacy concerns, said Jeffrey Rosen at the Bridges to the Future event on Nov. 11.

Rosen, legal affairs editor at The New Republic, spoke on "The Naked Crowd: How to Protect Security and Privacy in the Age of Terror" at the final Bridges event for the fall quarter.

"As citizens, one of the most important things we should be thinking about is how we will maintain our safety without sacrificing privacy."

Following the London Underground bombings, the use of three-dimensional "naked" imaging machines to see items concealed on the body became a real possibility.

"Studies have found that people will give up their privacy and modesty in order to increase their feeling of safety," said Rosen. "But every person has different privacy threshold, and often there are generational differences."

Rosen gave examples of privacy issues that the United States is currently confronting, or might address in 2025: the use of high-tech brain sans to detect a chemical propensity to violence and take pre-emptive action; the right of parents to use cloning and genetic technology to create "designer children;" and the use of biometric face scans and data-mining techniques to create a word-wide terrorist threat database.

He stated that the courts are not best-equipped to decide the issues surrounding these possibilities.

"Regulation should come from the political arena?the legislature?then codified by the courts," said Rosen.

Science, Technology and Values is the overall theme for Bridges to the Future 2005-2006. The sub-theme for the fall quarter theme was Privacy and Security Issues; the winter quarter theme is Life Sciences Issues; and the spring quarter theme is Sustainability Issues.

In January, Bridges will focus on life science issues. On Jan. 21, Dr. Jane Maienschein of Arizona State University will speak about bioethics.