The Mercedes Benz of Privacy Destruction

You’re missing my point. I’m not proposing to limit journalists’ powers; that statement was meant as a reductio ad absurdum. Let me try again.

Tuckerfan seems to be saying (perhaps I am misreading him) that the government should not be allowed to use new technology (in Kyllo, passive thermal imaging devices) because the government will abuse it, just as the government abuses the tools it has at its disposal now.

I’m saying that of course the government will abuse any new technology given it, just as the government has abused every tool it has been given; just as members of every group will abuse any tool given it. That statement is content-free. If you remove from the state all powers that it will abuse, you will end up with no government at all; likewise if you force the government to use only the tools available in 1789. The question is how to decide what new technology the government is allowed to use, and when.

The Kyllo test proposes that the technology allowed to the government “by default” (i.e., in the absence of warrants, etc.) should be roughly comparable to the technology generally used by the public. That is, privacy rights are defined by an implicit standard consensus. If thermal-imaging night-vision goggles become the new evening fashion, then claiming a privacy right against government use of the same technology is no longer reasonable, at least in my reading of Kyllo.

This seems like a pretty good test to me, but I’d be happy to hear your ideas.

I would guess you were told this during the interview as a form of psychological test – to see if you start protesting, or leap up and race out to your car, or the like. They want their employees to be ok with the idea of having every aspect of their lives open to scrutiny.

There is no way on earth I would take a job at a place like that.

Yeah…it’s highly unlikely. As previously stated, they probably wouldn’t want me anyway. I’m no criminal, but a serious background check of the type that is required for a government security clearance is NOT going to be pretty (even though, I’m basically a good girl…kind of weird, that).

And I just don’t want to have to feel like big brother is watching me at work. I’m used to being able to occasionally e-mail my sis from work without fear of jail time, ya know?

I didn’t react to the comment that I’d be in trouble if i had drugs in my car. I simply replied, “If they’re looking for caffeine, I could be in trouble because I didn’t finish my Dunkies on the way over here.”

I’ve been thinking about it and scary white box trucks driving around randomly gathering information on an unsuspecting public who is largely unaware that they’re being watched is WAY creepy. I give a nod to the guys who said that whether the technology is in common use is a major factor and so forth. But i still feel like our constitutional rights have been put on hold in the name of searching for terrorists. We already have high tech means to detect large amounts of marijuana

Now wear is that tinfoil hat?

I can’t imagine that the public would be too thrilled with nightvision equipment on cars that was so powerful it allowed you to observe people walking around inside their houses. I believe that the night vision gear installed in high end Caddys is just powerful enough to make things visible through fog and rain, but wouldn’t allow one to notice if someone’s house is warmer than someone else’s house.

I haven’t used the Cadillac equipment, but I believe it is actually a thermal-imaging system (not merely a sensitive amplifier for visible or near-IR wavelengths). If it is sensitive enough to show wildlife, then it is certainly sensitive enough to see at least some warm spots in a building wall or roof.

This depends (of course) on how much insulation there is, how hot the source is, how long it’s been there, how much convection/wind there is on the outside of the building, etc. In particular, bright, stationary heat sources (having a long time to heat the walls) will be much more visible than moving ones. Also, because the heat transfer through building walls is primarily conductive and convective (as opposed to radiative) it is relatively slow and diffuse. You wouldn’t be able to see any “real-time motion” of people through normal walls at these wavelengths.

The performance of these systems is dictated by their ability to detect the objects most likely to be found unexpectedly on roads at night: wildlife, cars, people. This performance pretty much requires them to also be able to see things like warm spots in walls–which is my point: this is the sort of change in privacy expectations that happens merely as a result of technological change.