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Back to the Future – 2020

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Can you imagine your world 13 years from now without surveillance? Well, Robert Gellman certainly can’t and he’s come up with eight “fanciful” but somewhat apocalyptic musings about how watched the average citizen might become. Here’s an abridged version of his list:

Auto tracking. Every car will be required to have a transponder, and automated highway readers will record all trips. The transponders will allow agencies to monitor driving habits and to issue electronic tickets for violations. The system will collect fees for using congested roads, replace parking meters and prevent undesirable people from driving in certain areas.

strong>Very personalized PC. Every computer will have a static IP address. No one will be able to operate a computer without registering through a token, fingerprint or other identification device.

MySpace is mandatory. Every individual will be required to maintain a personal Web page with basic contact information accessible by the government and the public. People with out-of-date pages will be fined.

Society caught on tape. Surveillance cameras will be even more universal than they are today. You will not be able to walk down a street, enter a store, park in a garage, ride the subway, sit at your desk at work, open your front door or do anything else outside your home without being recorded.

Penniless marketplace. Currency will disappear and all money will be electronic. Every transaction will be permanently tracked. Private money systems will develop using tokens, gold and other forms of intrinsic value.” (Source: Direct Marketing News)

Of course, the underlying point here is that today’s seemingly innocuous surveillance technologies can take on scary lives of their own tomorrow. By that time in the future, these surveillance applications would be the ‘new normal’ for those who don’t remember anything different.

We as regulators can play an active role by continuing to “sound alarms,” about today’s seemingly harmless intrusions with the hope that someone out there becomes concerned enough to just say NO!

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