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Little Brother Is Watching

Publication Date: 
April 27, 2011
Steve Henn

Lecturer Ryan Calo spoke with Marketplace's Steve Hehn on how abuse may be inevitable as new technological gadgets continue to advance.

New gadgets and applications put sophisticated and powerful intelligence tools into the hands of the average snoop.

Kai Ryssdal: We mentioned electronic privacy earlier, Sony trying to deal with 77 million Playstation accounts being hacked.

But here's the thing. The way the high-tech economy works, with gadgets getting cheaper even as they're getting more sophisticated, maybe it's not Big Brother we should be worrying about at all. If the prospect of pretty much anybody being able to get their hands on the electronic version of you is an issue, Little Brother may be more of a problem.


But Ryan Calo, the director of the Consumer Privacy Project at Stanford Law School, says as these technologies become more common -- and affordable -- abuse is almost inevitable.

Ryan Calo: I can tell you that there will be use cases that will bother you.

He says imagine for a second you're the editor of a tabloid, or a suspicious spouse.

Calo: Why wouldn't you want to have a drone that flew around L.A. looking for Brad Pitt?

Or your cheating spouse?

Calo: If you have facial recognition technology and you have a drone with automous functioning.

Calo's serious. There is a two-foot wide drone on the market today you can buy for a couple hundred dollars. It can record streaming video and send it to your phone.

In fact, I own one. And a little while ago, Calo and I took it out for a test flight on Stanford's campus. But before we could gun the engines and start shooting video of random law students, we had to click through the disclaimer.

Calo: Obey all laws and respect the privacy of others. That's great. OK, no problem then.