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Volume 24 • Number 2

April 2010



Nanotechnology, Sensors, and Rights to Privacy

by Alan Rubel

A suite of technological advances based on nanotechnology has received substantial attention for its potential to affect privacy. Reports of the National Nanotechnology Initiative have recognized that the societal implications of nanotechnology will include better surveillance and information-gathering technologies. A variety of academic and popular publications have explained the potential effects of nanotechnology on privacy.

The ways in which nanotechnology might affect privacy are varied. It may make current information technology better, make old information-gathering techniques more reliable, or expand information-gathering into novel areas. My focus in this paper is on the privacy effects of one potential application of nanotechnology: sensors capable of detecting weapons agents or drugs—"nanosensors" or "sensors" for short. Nanotechnology may make possible small, accurate, and easy-to-use sensors to detect a variety of substances, including Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Explosive agents (CBRE), as well as drugs. Analyzing the potential effects on privacy of sensors can provide important insights into the nature and extent of privacy rights.

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ISSN: 2152-0542