“Camera Network Will Monitor People All Over District; Civil Libertarians Worry”
That's the headline in a Wall Street Journal story about the installation of closed circuit television cameras in Washington, D.C.
This headline, in and of itself, speaks volumes about our society's attitudes toward using technology constructively to achieve security goals. The first phrase of the headline describes what technology can do; the second phrase seems almost obligatory: “Civil Libertarians Worry.”
We hear a lot about civil libertarians worrying these days. It's a wonder they have time to do their real work, whatever it is.
Here is how the Wall Street Journal quotes one worrying civil libertarian: “Technology is giving government what amounts to Superman's vision.”
We owe a debt of gratitude to the worrying civil libertarians, whose incessant hand-wringing and nagging provide a predictable and almost comforting drone in the background as technology marches forward. By serving as ethical arbiters of what we do, they relieve our burden to consider such issues in our daily work, right?
Wrong. Issues of conscience should not be relegated to the second phrase in a headline, and they should not be expressed only by the designated worriers.
Instead, we should all be conscious of — and consider carefully — the ethical and societal ramifications of everything we do. Professionals have the knowledge to understand all aspects of the issues at hand, and — I believe — should rise to the challenge of using the technology responsibly.