The Future has arrived, for better or worse

Futuristic technology, and what it will actually be like as opposed to our imaginations, has always been a fascination of humanity, and Americans are no different. For example, in a Bugs Bunny cartoon entitled “The Old Grey Hare”, Bugs and Elmer are advanced to the year 2000 A.D., where their chase continues. Elmer, however, is now wielding a futuristic laser rifle. This is a superb example of the differences in technology that we imagine and what comes to pass, as lasers were not available to the common rabbit hunter in the year 2000. Two such futuristic ideas that we have held more recently, a remote shut off for mobile cellular devices (cell phones, tablets, etc) to safeguard personal information from stolen devices and, as in the CBS television show Person of Interest, a device capable of being able to detect anyone anywhere via cameras and extensive facial recognition systems. A few years ago, both of these would have seemed very outlandish, but these ideas have become our near future, as they are nearly in fruition.

The former, a cellular device safeguard, seems to be a positive development. Who would not want to erase their data and lock their phones in the event of the device being stolen? While this has a face value benefit, there are many more inherent dangers. The first danger is that if they are mandated instead of just on request as they are now, all it would take is access to account to steal the data, change the pin, then lock the phone, preventing recovery by the victim. The second danger is that if a hacker gains access to the carrier’s information, a universal theft and shutdown would be possible. While some may think that large companies are invincible from such threats, events even recently prove otherwise, such as the attack on the Origin servers, the hacking of Yahoo! and Blizzard, and last but in no way least the Heart Bleed scare. A hacker who devises a clever way past AT&T’s firewall, for example, would then immediately have access to everyone’s information and the ability to lock down countless phones without recovery. If this remote shut-off is government mandated, however, what is to prevent the government from simply shutting off the phones of dissenters? Morality? The Constitution? We know neither of those stopped the IRS.

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