Science Café: Privacy in the Nano City


Friday, April 19, 2013 - 5:30pm to 6:30pm


Event Details

From our Facebook pages to our email, the use of electronic surveillance is breaking down our notions of privacy.

In this country and in this city, privacy is highly valued and coveted. Privacy influences many elements of our city from housing design to our preferences for private automobiles.  Yet, in Arizona there is a significant commitment to unmanned aerial vehicles, wall-penetrating imaging, and long distance surveillance technology. 

And while most of these technologies are being developed for use in military and border security applications, they are also likely to become tools for city, county and state police forces.  These forms of technology leverage existing (and future) nanotechnology.  They are quietly breaking down the ability to retain our private lives. With the volumes of data being compiled and the expanded use of drone (unmanned aerial vehicles) and other surveillance technology, there are challenges to the cultural expectation and value of privacy.

Questions to explore

  • What does privacy mean in the Nano City?  
  • How might nanotechnology threaten cultural privacy values?  
  • Who decides what is private and what is public?
  • Are information sharing and privacy opposing forces? 
  • Can nanotechnology strengthen privacy while also encouraging information sharing? 


Braden Allenby is Lincoln Professor Of Engineering and Ethics in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Peter De Marneffe is a professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies.

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