In a brave new world there needs to be an understanding that we will begin to encounter technology that, while making life manifestly easier, could also be a devil’s bargain. Technology is moving faster than most of us can figure it out, and it’s time we begin to understand that the ethics questions that were based on supposition are now becoming very important. What do we do with this technology? Do we assimilate it into culture and join the brave new world where government and corporations can learn all they need to know about us at the push of a button? Or do we fight the system and demand that while technology may advance, a barrier must be built between our persons and that technology, because the possible negative effects greatly outweigh all of the potential benefits.
These questions aren’t the kind of thing you can put off thinking about, friends. In fact, while the idea of collection of biometric data has been in our collective conscience for many years thanks to the imaginations of brilliant science fiction authors, today the idea is no longer science fiction.
One Florida school district is now in hot water for simply bypassing any conversation on biometric data collection and just taking their students’ information. In Polk County Florida, the school district captured the retinal scan images of about 750 students without first gaining the parents’ consent. In fact, parents were told that participation was not mandatory, but this was after their children’s retinas had already been scanned. Now the school district is apologizing, but local parents don’t seem to be buying their excuses:
“But Connie Turlington, the parent of an 11-year-old boy who was scanned at the Davenport School of the Arts, said the mistake was hardly a mistake. “It sounds like a simple case of it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission,” she said, Fox News reported.”
Stanley Convergent, the company that was contracted to do the imaging, has said it has deleted all of the retinal scans. However, many Polk County parents are questioning that, “citing the technology maxim: Nothing is ever really gone from the Internet.” A major question we should be asking is if our schools should even be considering using methods like this to keep track of students. Recent research into biometric data collection suggests that schools are the last places that should be attempting to use this information.
Whatever the benefits, the collection of biometric data needs to be handled in a careful and circumspect way. It seems likely that large public school systems are not the most suitable places for pilot programs like this to be evaluated. Even worse, taken with the recent discoveries of the NSA and Justice Department malfeasance, it seems like Big Brother really might be watching us.