Tech UPTechnologyCyber vigilantes

Cyber vigilantes

Reality begins to look dangerously like fiction. In May 2001, David Brin, a prolific author of science fiction novels, predicted: “Technology will be able to overcome any barrier we establish to protect our privacy. In the future, it will be possible, for example, to camouflage a camera in an artificial fly.” .

In December 2002 his prediction was starting to make some sense:Pentagonpresents his intentions to build a great surveillance system with the expressive name ofTotal Information Awareness (Total Knowledge of Information), a vastdata networkthat would allow to trace the footprint thatany citizenleaves when making bank transactions, vehicle rentals, card purchases, electricity or telephone supply contracts, and so on.

Fiction again: in 1787, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham suggested a model of prison known asPanopticonin which all the inmates can be observed 24 hours a day by a jailer installed at the top of the building without even having to show his face. It is a total surveillance jail …

And the reality: those attending the final of the National Football Championship in Tampa in February 2000 barely noticed that a television camera was recording their entrance, one by one, into the stadium. Florida police had launched a prototype ofbiometric surveillanceconsisting ofcompare facesof these thousands of peoplewith those of criminals and suspects.

Some experts alert us thatnever before the privacy of citizensof the worldI had been so threatened. Reg Whitaker, Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, admits VERY that “the defense of privacy has become meaningless since every transaction, every contact we make with a new technology can be tracked by someone I am not saying that someone watches us at all times, but technology allows whoever wants to do it, to do so. “

In fact, the cheapness of new surveillance technologies and the state of fear derived from the attacks of 9/11 have pushed police departments, state agencies, banks, businesses, recreational parks, stadiums, concerned parents and chiefs of staff to use all kinds of cameras, recognition algorithms, databases, biometric tools, etc. to protect your material or moral assets.

Obviously, believing that any citizen may be being spied on for life is closer to paranoia than a calm analysis of reality. But there is no doubt that all these scattered sources of information are capable of being brought together in a large surveillance network at the disposal of the authorities who want to use them: Is that what the Pentagon intends with its new plans?

Obviously, the country most affected by the matter, at least in the short term, is the United States, where theBush administration,on the back of his new superministry of Security, has givenfree way to enhance global surveillance. “Technology evolves at the speed of light, but privacy protection laws are still in the Stone Age,” warns the director of the American Union for the Defense of Civil Liberties, Barry Steindhart. For Simos Davies, founder of the organization Privacy International, “it is only a matter of time before social and political pressure introduce cameras into our homes. By 2020, the scope of the invasion of privacy is likely to be absolute.” exaggerating? A look at what has happened in recent years will help us evaluate these predictions.

In 1986 in the United Kingdom (home of George Orwell, by the way), a pioneering measure was taken in the world: the town of King’s Lynn, near London, introduced three video surveillance cameras on the busiest streets. Until that date, 58 crimes had been registered very close in time. In the two years after the measure, not a single one was recorded. The apparent success of the initiative led the Government to favor facilities in other cities in the country. As a result, hundreds of networks broadcast theoretically innocuous images of unsuspecting citizens. What would happen if some official body or, simply, a criminal group could access that information from outside the system? The odds are not slim, considering the fragility traditionally demonstrated by data transmission networks. Today in the UK the installation of surveillance systems has become a “fifth essential service after water, gas, electricity and the telephone line”, warns Stephen Graham of the University of Newcastle.

Let’s be disappointed, we live in a guarded world, just look up at the roof of the bank every time we withdraw money from the ATM. And CCTV cameras look like toys compared to biometric monitoring technologies that analyze facial features, skin textures, gestures … We may have to get used to being digitally searched by security forces before taking any social action suspicious. Or perhaps we have to start opening doors to the exciting field of cyber espionage.

The new X-ray recording technologies have reached such a degree of refinement that some civil liberties advocates are beginning to doubt that it is ethical to use them on a massive scale in airports or public places.

Are our medical data protected?

Information on our medical history is subject to special protection by law. But there are many cases in which professional secrecy is difficult to maintain.

Have you ever stopped to think about what your doctor talks about when you meet a colleague in the hospital elevator? Do you comment on the last soccer game? Do they exchange family troubles? Or do they gossip about their patients’ health, their physical peculiarities, or their hygiene habits? It may seem like a minor matter, but a recent report by Dr. Peter Uber of the Philadelphia Veterans Medical Center has collected numerous complaints about patients from four Pittsburgh-area hospitals. The work details cases such as that of a couple of doctors who chat in the elevator about the mistake made by one of them in a surgical operation, without realizing that a family member of the victim is next to them. Or from doctors who reveal information about the disease, possibly infectious, suffered by the owner of a well-known restaurant.

Thehealth related dataIt’s found betweenthe most protectedby the laws of the whole world. In 1997, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe made a recommendation to the Member States to apply protection measures to information “relating to the health of the individual, including genetic information.” Following this recommendation, the Organic Law on the Protection of Personal Data (LOPD), approved in Spain in 1999, establishes that only health personnel or the organizations that work on their behalf are entitled to collect and process said data, although they are establish transfer mechanisms in events of general interest.

Although the Law is clear, points of conflict often arise that sometimes reach the courts. In 2001, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence of Dr. AIPM to two years of disqualification and one year in prison for having revealed to the mother of a patient data on her medical history in which there were two voluntary interruptions of pregnancy.

To what extent can our medical data be computerized, transmitted and disclosed? Nobody likes to be pried into their clinical privacy, but sometimesknowledge of certain information can result in better service to patients. Who should know the data of those affected by an epidemic? Should the records of people who carry the HIV virus but not yet have AIDS be communicated to the authorities in charge of prevention?

The arrival of new tools such as biotechnology and remote medicine complicates the picture, to the point that confidentiality has become a concern of many physicians. The Spanish Teresa Heitzmann, for example, is a specialist in Otolaryngology and dedicated her doctoral thesis to the study of medical secrecy. His work, carried out among 186 general and family doctors in Madrid, reveals “a high respect for confidentiality on the part of professionals”. But it detected “numerous gaps in the transmission of information between doctors.” “50% of the doctors,” the report concludes, “don’t care if the exchange of opinions between colleagues takes place in a public place.”

The test allows to know in a matter of seconds if a person has used drugs.

According to the analysis of the experts,In health, the right to privacy is a limited right. The LOPD, for example, establishes the possibility that patients request the destruction or cancellation of computer files with their records once the purpose for which they were opened has been achieved, that is, the diagnosis and final treatment. However, in some cases, it is doneThe preservation of these data is essential beyond the healing of the individual.For example, some medical records are of great value for future epidemiological studies that may lead to health actions that are beneficial to society. The problem would be to know who is authorized to use that data and who is not.

Some institutions, as the Parc Taulí de Sabadell healthcare corporation did in 1999, have established their own ethical code in which they establish exceptions in which a doctor can violate confidentiality when it comes to protecting third parties. A typical case is whether or not a person should be informed that their spouse is infected with HIV. In most cases, an attempt is made to convince the patient that it is he himself who provides this information to his partner. But what happens if he refuses?

Dilemmas like this are often grappled with by practitioners across the globe. And it is that there is no doubt that, as medicine advances, the doctor’s gaze penetrates more deeply into our private information. Some experts display a deep pessimism when announcing that it may be necessary to redesign the concept of privacy to dislodge certain parts of our medical information from it. In the end, the molecular chain that makes up our DNA may end up being as innocuous and universal information as the sequence of our telephone number.

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