In the popular sci-fi movie, Minority Report, the public of the future is heavily monitored by the government. Remember those small disks surveillance microrobots that spied on citizens? That type of technology may not be sci-fi for long. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding research for stealth surveillance robots that can fly and are the size and appearance of a common housefly. They believe the robot's small size and fly-like appearance will be an invaluable tool in their eavesdropping arsenal.
"Nature makes the world's best fliers," says Robert Wood, leader of Harvard's robotic-fly project and a professor at the university's school of engineering and applied sciences. They chose the tiny housefly for the model because “you probably wouldn't notice a fly in the room, but you certainly would notice a hawk."
If you’re paranoid about being spied on—get out your flyswatters. A life-size, robotic fly has already taken flight at Harvard University. Weighing only 60 milligrams, with a wingspan of three centimeters, the tiny robot's movements are modeled on those of a real fly. While work remains to be done on the mechanical insect, the researchers say that such small flying machines will likely eventually be used as spies as well as for other less controversial applications.
If you think being worried about government spying is silly—you might have missed the news in January of this year when President Bush announced that he's allowed to open Americans' mail. We also learned about undisclosed Pentagon and CIA demands for citizens' financial records.
For five years now, the National Security Agency has been reading email and tapping phones without a warrant—actions explicitly forbidden by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This legislation was the result of the violations the last time a president (Nixon) authorized the wiretapping of Americans citizens.
The FBI delivers tens of thousands of National Security Letters that demand personal records from businesses, and gags recipients barring individuals from speaking out. Phone companies are now forced to “work in cooperation” with the feds by giving the NSA access to customers' private records.
I’m not saying whether or not it’s wrong for the government to use illegal means in order to catch the “bad guys”. I’m just pointing out a few similarities between reality and one of my favorite sci-fi movies.
Posted by Rebecca Sato
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