At their annual meeting this fall in Montreal, there was little of the traditional talk among the international privacy people about the nuts and bolts of data protection. Instead, there were urgent and distressed discussions about “uberveillance,” “ambient technology,” “ubiquitous computing,” “ingestible bugs” and nanotechnology.
The terms may be overlapping and may in fact be somewhat synonymous.
What is uberveillance?
Michael G. Michael, a theologian and technology historian at the University of Wollongong, in New South Wales, Australia, says that he originated the term uberveillance to describe the new environment. The stem “uber” means “over” or “super” in German. He thinks the pervasive monitoring will lead to increased cases of insanity and mental distress. “Mental illness will become an increasingly confronting factor as these issues develop,” he frowned.
Another threatening term often used in these contexts is nanotechnogy [sic], which refers to a miniaturization of technology allowing applications originally deemed impossible.
It’s rather early to be speculating that nanotechnology will lead to mental illness. It’s not clear that we will have pervasive monitoring of humans of the type that could trigger that. Yes, we need to do arms control, and that will be challenging as weapons shrink. But let’s think about how to do it without uberveillance. At our recent Vision Weekend Unconference, Foresight members explored the concept of open source physical security, which acknowledges the tradeoff between security and privacy, and then tries to optimize that tradeoff rather than just pushing 100% in one direction. —Christine