With the increasing use of technology, a person might cross the border without even knowing it — or at least their personal data might.
“Whether that’s booking airline tickets or applying for trusted traveler cards, we may not recognize that our personal data is traveling to various spots and being assessed in ways that is unbeknown to us,” said University of Arizona visiting scholar Benjamin Muller.
For instance, in Canada, he said, most domestic flights often cross into U.S. airspace. “So Canadians are often not aware that flying from point A to point B in Canada may mean that all of their personal information is also being subjected to U.S. oversight,” he said.
Muller, a visiting scholar at the Confluence Center for Creative Inquiry at the University of Arizona, will give a presentation on “iBorders: Drones & Designs” on Jan. 14 as part of the center’s Show & Tell series.
The monthly series at Playground Bar & Lounge is meant to bring the work of faculty members to the community through interactive presentations.
Muller said he wants to encourage the public to be inquisitive.
“To be kind of aware and be maybe critical, skeptical about where your personal information is going, how it’s being used, and when things are done in name of security, to ask questions about that and realize that going down that road is likely to have greater societal changes,” he said.
“There’s a lot of decisions being made about us of which we know very little, and obviously once you cross borders it sort of enhances the ramifications,” he said. “We may care less if Amazon gets our purchasing patterns wrong and suggests the wrong book to us, but if the same sort of algorithm suddenly places us on a terror watch list, that obviously has much greater ramifications.”
The ports of entry are a good example, he said, when there’s an officer looking at a screen and a traveler has no idea what type of information he is looking at and whether or not it’s a good assessment of him or her.
While he does not advocate against the technology, Muller said he would like to see countries slow down the race toward technology and security.
“It seems to me there’s a lot of aspects about government decision making where society would never allow government to get away with certain expenditures, for example,” he said. “But it seems that when it comes to technology and security and the borders there seems to be not a lot of questions asked.”
After projects such as SBInet, a virtual-fence program on which the U.S. government spent $1 billion before glitches, major delays and the cost prompted officials to cancel it, Muller said the public should be a lot more critical.
Muller’s presentation “is a great opportunity to learn more about how different technologies are becoming part of our daily lives,” said the Confluence Center’s director, Javier Duran, especially in places like Arizona, where drones and other devices are increasingly being used for surveillance.