Sunday, September 28, 2008

Real life cellphone dragnet for nuclear devices

Researchers at Purdue University are working on technology that will turn every cellphone into a roaming nuclear weapon sniffer and are lobbying Congress to legally require cellphone users and carriers to participate. The Distributed Nuclear Detection by Ubiquitous Cellphone project would be kind of like the massive cellphone dragnet in The Dark Knight, but it would look for terrorists sneaking dirty bombs and nuclear weapons instead of the Joker.

Like the Batman system, the more phones on the ground, the better, since it would be able to triangulate the source of radiation more accurately. Phones closest to the deadly stuff as they pass by would give off stronger signals, pinpointing where it's at, or how it's moving in real time.

There are major civil rights issues associated with such a programme. Interestingly, in The Dark Knight, Lucius Fox initially refuses to use the dragnet and only agrees after being assured it will be destroyed after the Joker is found. This set-up allows Christopher Nolan to neatly sidestep the issue of Batman having a digital big- brother eye over everyone, which would have been repugnant to many viewers.

Ultimately, the programme is likely to take the form of a voluntary or paid-participation arrangement. I am more interested, however, in the debate around whether people’s privacy should be sacrificed in favor of state security. Let the public debate begin ...

(Newsweek via Gizmodo)

No comments: