Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Too much privacy with nano?

In a 2004 national survey on public attitudes toward nanotechnology, we found issues related to privacy to be the most salient concern about the new technology among the U.S. public (see figure to the right.)

Of course, most respondents were probably referring to virtually invisible surveillance devices and tiny robots. Ironically, a new innovation in the area of nanotech may give citizens more rather than less privacy: wall paint that blocks cell phone signals on demand.

The Chicago Tribune reported on this new paint today, which is being developed by NaturalNano, a Rochester, NY-based company, and is based on tiny copper particles, inserted into nanotubes, that can be applied as wall paint and activated if needed. The applications are endless: movie theaters, classrooms, hospitals … and, apparently, churches.

"You could use this in a concert hall, allowing cell phones to work before the concert and during breaks, but shutting them down during the performance," said Michael Riedlinger, president of NaturalNano.

Others were much more concerned.

"We oppose any kind of blocking technology," said Joe Farren, spokesman for The Wireless Association, the leading cell phone trade group. "What about the young parents whose baby-sitter is trying to call them, or the brain surgeon who needs notification of emergency surgery? These calls need to get through."

(Read the full Chicago Tribune article here.)