Friday, September 5, 2014

The Law Needs to Address Cyborgs, Because We've Already Become Them

When someone with an e-tattoo or an implanted biochip inevitably commits a crime, and evidence of that crime exists on that device within them, do they have a legal right to protect it? Do cyborgs have the same rights as humans?

It's an open question, but, perhaps surprisingly, it's one that the Supreme Court has already sort of tackled. Earlier this summer, Chief Justice John Roberts, in the case of Riley v. California wrote that "modern cell phones… are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy."

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled cops couldn't search a cell phone without a warrant. Our cell phones don't make us cyborgs, but there's a fine line between the data contained on a cell phone, which is always on our body, and the data contained gathered by an e-tattoo, an implantable chip, or, hell, even a pacemaker. 

"The more you take a thing with no rights and integrate it indelibly into a thing that we invest with rights, the more you inevitably confront the question: Do you give the thing with no rights rights, or do you take those rights away from the thing with rights?," Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution told me.

"Unless one specifically engineers the cyborg to resist such collection or interception, it will by default facilitate surveillance," Wittes wrote. And with it, society will, no doubt, change.

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