Tech-based security vs. liberty: The trade-offs in post-9/11 America

Sep 27, 2011

Although there were terrorism alerts, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was a peaceful one, thanks in part to security measures developed by America’s high-tech companies.

Strategic News Service publisher Mark Anderson participated in the technology sector response to 9/11. This month on "The Digital Future," Mark and KPLU’s Dave Meyer talk about security technology and its impact on individual liberty.

Mark was in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001. The next day, he sent an email to SNS subscribers (including many executives, engineers and developers), asking for technology solutions to terrorism.

Three weeks later, the result was a 200 page book, Project Intelligent Response. Mark hand-delivered copies to most members of the US Senate (mail delivery had been shut down by the anthrax scare).

The book contained many solutions which are in place today, including: 

  • Facial recognition software
  • Soft X-ray screenings at airports
  • Chemical sniffers for explosives
  • Detectors for poisons and bio-agents

Security with trade offs

Ten years later, technology has made the United States more secure. But there are trade offs. We have less privacy. As reported on CBS's 60 Minutes, security cameras in New York City track your movements, and radiation detectors can even tell if you've received nuclear medicine treatments. Cameras and detection gear are becoming more commonplace all around the country.

How much security is too much security? It's a tough call to make. According to Mark:

"We're in a time where, because the individual has an increasing ability to cause damage, there is an increasing need by the population to cede privacy in favor of security."

The Digital Future” is a monthly interview with technology expert Mark Anderson covering the online world and all things digital. The feature is published here on the last Tuesday of every month and airs on KPLU 88.5 during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.