Surveillance networks have two sides

Thursday, May 29, 2014

George Orwell probably never thought of each of us carrying a networked computer that could keep track of our every word and move, but he knew Big Brother would have loved one.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden told NBC's Brian Williams that the government can use your cell phone or computer to take photos, checking your Internet activity, emails and recording your phone conversations, even if your device is turned off.

We frankly weren't as surprised at the massive spying operation by the National Security Agency as we were that anyone assumed they had real privacy while using a would wide computer network invented by the government, or cellular transmissions regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

Snowden sees himself as more of a patriot than a traitor, and NBC viewers agreed two to one on Twitter, despite Secretary of State Johnn Kerry's call for Snowden to "man up," and return to the U.S. from exile in Russia to face the music.

It will take years to strike a balance between the right to individual privacy and legitimate national security concerns, and we can at least credit Snowden with jump-starting that debate.

The advent of the Affordable Care Act will add a new dimension, despite a supposed prohibition against insurance being denied on the basis of pre-existing conditions.

One bright spot is the ability of technology to monitor your health.

Cell phone company Samsung reportedly is going to sell a new wristband which will use light beamed at your skin to continuously monitor blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, hydration level and the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood.

Apple is expected to announce a similar system soon.

We can imagine that downloading data from an electronic arm band will become a regular part of a visit to the doctor in the near future.

Or, imagine networking thousands of the arm bands to extract data for medical research. Strict privacy rules would have to be in place, but the potential for medical progress is unlimited.

Yes, let's make sure Big Brother isn't watching when he shouldn't be, but let's not shut him out when he could truly provide lifesaving information.

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