Nanodevices and the end of privacy

Monday, March 20, 2006

Professor Susan Brenner made a very interesting post in her blog about microelectromechanical sensors ( MEMs). MEMS are microscopic device with both electrical and mechanical functionality. According to wikipedia, these devices generally range in size from a micrometre (a millionth of a metre) to a millimetre (thousandth of a metre), a scale where a human's intuitive sense of physics do not always hold true.
Total MEMS Revenue 2001-2006 source: In-Stat/MDR
Mems has been used
in Biotech,
Medical Industries,
Computers and Automobile.
Its market in 2006 is said
to reach 10 billion USD.

(Stat and Img: Tactim)




BBC News said that the Pentagon's defence scientists want to create an army of cyber-insects that can be remotely controlled to check out explosives and send transmissions by inserting micro-systems at the pupa stage, when the insects can integrate them into their body, so they can be remotely controlled later.

There are actually devices a lot smaller than MEMS, which are called NEMS or nanoelectromechanical systems. NEMS are machines, sensors, computers and electronics that are on the nanoscale. People at Caltech and in several others around the world are currently developing it and it will bring good payoff in a diverse range of fields, from medicine and biotechnology to the foundations of quantum mechanics.

Clean lines in semiconductors

(Image: Physicsweb)

NEMS can produce ultralow-power mechanical signal processing at microwave frequencies and new types of fast scanning probe microscopes that could be used in fundamental research or perhaps even as the basis of new forms of mechanical computers.

According to Professor Brenner:

"So, as I explain to my students, I have a Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy in what occurs inside my home if I close the doors, close the curtains and otherwise protect the interior of my home from observations by members of the public and/or law enforcement officers who are physically located in the public areas outside my home."

I however, have a slightly different view. I think any laws that protects privacy will finally go to extinction, as privacy is slowly-but-sure being eroded by technology. We can learn from the development of Law. During the Roman era, property extended unlimited to space. After balloons and planes were invented, people created skyway and admit that it doesn't extend unlimited to space. Recently, there is an emerging body of water law, because of the water shortage. Already, states creates law which says that property does not extend below the ground, and water sources are not private property.

Also recently, we are aware that Google via its Google Earth project has recorded each detail of earth surface and Mars to be displayed on their site. (That's a view of Rome from Google Earth. Guess what that Dome is...)


Privacy will only be meaningful when societal condition is viable and feasible to protects privacy, through for example, curtain or walls. If in the near future sensors capability develop extraordinarily so that common people unable to protect their privacies through on-the-market technology, then privacy laws will need to be re-examined.

You can run..., but you can't hide..., not even in Mars!


Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani

Technorati Tags : , , , , ,