In an effort to predict and avert threats to national security, governments in general and that of the United States in particular, have devoted considerable resources to developing technological systems that gather information about individuals. In the past five years, the U.S. government has collected information about the movement of individuals across and within its national borders from various sources, including border security stations, law enforcement officials, and immigration authorities. Until recently, it seemed impossible for the U.S. government to draw useful analyses from all of the data it is collecting. The sheer volume and complexity of the information made it appear unworkable to perform an analysis in time to act pre-emptively. Now, developments in computing technology suggest that not only will it soon be possible to collect and process vast amounts of data, it will be possible to do so in real time, giving law enforcement officials unprecedented capacities to engage proactively.
This paper will examine the ways in which nanotechnology will likely revolutionize the computing industry, and the effect of these developments on the U.S. government’s collection, processing, and dissemination of information about individuals for national security purposes. In an earlier article, I examined the rising use of biometric, or physiological data by governments in order to track individuals. One of the problems discussed in that paper was that while governments might collect vast amounts of information about individuals, they lacked the capacity to usefully process and analyze that information. Developments in nanotechnology are likely to change that.
This paper also considers the importance of engaging the public in the development of emergent nanotechnologies, due to privacy and health implications, and also because of the growing realization on the part of the scientific establishment that the success of any new technology depends in large part upon its acceptance by the community as a whole.
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