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Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector


The military sector has been investing in nanotechnology solutions since their inception. Internal assessment committees in defense programmatically determine to what degree complex technologies will be diffused into the Armed Forces. The broad term nanotechnology is used in this Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine to encompass a variety of innovations, from special paint markers that can determine unique identity, to RFID implants in humans. With the purported demand for these new materials, we have seen the development of a fabrication process that has catapulted a suite of advanced technologies in the military marketplace. These technologies were once the stuff of science fiction. Now we have everything from exoskeletons, to wearable headsets with accelerated night vision, to armaments that have increased in durability in rugged conditions along with the ability for central command without human intervention. Is this the emergence of the so-called supersoldier, a type of Iron Man?

Nanotechnology in the Military Sector

The military sector has been investing in nanotechnology solutions since their inception. Internal assessment committees in defense programmatically determine to what degree complex technologies will be diffused into the Armed Forces. The broad term nanotechnology is used in this Special Issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine to encompass a variety of innovations, from special paint markers that can determine unique Identity, to RFID implants in humans. With the purported demand for these new materials, we have seen the development of a fabrication process that has catapulted a suite of advanced technologies in the military marketplace. These technologies were once the stuff of science fiction. Now we have everything from exoskeletons, to wearable headsets with accelerated night vision, to armaments that have increased in durability in rugged conditions along with the ability for central command without human intervention. Is this the emergence of the so-called super-soldier, a type of Iron Man?

Social Implications: Key Questions

This special issue is predominantly based on proceedings coming from the 9th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security, co-convened by the authors of this guest editorial. The workshop focused specifically on human-centric implantable technologies in the military sector. Key questions the workshop sought to address with respect to implants included:

  • What are the social implications of new proposed security technologies?
  • What are the rights of soldiers who are contracted to the defense forces in relation to the adoption of the new technologies?
  • Does local military law override rights provided under the rule of law in a given jurisdiction, and 1 what are the legal implications?
  • What might be some of the side effects experienced by personnel in using nanotechnology devices that have not yet been tested under conditions of war and conflict?
  • How pervasive are nanotechnologies and microelectronics (e.g., implantable technologies) in society at large?

Recommended Reading

More broadly the workshop sought to examine socio-ethical implications with respect to citizenry, the social contract formed with the individual soldier, and other stakeholders such as industry suppliers to government, government agencies, and the Armed Forces [1].

  • F. Allhoff, P. Lin, D. Moore, What is Nanotechnology and why does it matter? From Science to Ethics, West Sussex, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • S.J. Florczyk and S. Saha, “Ethical issues in nanotechnology,” J. Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 107-113,2007.
  • A. Krishnan, Military Neuroscience and the Coming of Neurowarfare, London, Routledge, 2017.
  • K. Michael, “Socio-ethical Implications of the Bionic Era”, Academy of Science in Australia,, Shine Dome, Canberra, 25/05/17.
  • R.A. Miranda, W.D. Casebeer, A.M. Hein, J.W. Judy, E.P. Krotkov, T.L. Laabs, J.E. Manzo, K.G. Pankratz, G.A. Pratt, J.C. Sanchez, D.J. Weber, T.L. Wheeler, G.S.F. Ling, “DARPA-funded efforts in the development of novel brain-computer interface technologies,” Journal of Neuroscience Methods, vol. 244,, 2015.
  • M. Murphy, “The US Military Is Developing Brain Implants to Boost Memory and Heal PTSD,” Defense One, 2015;, 17/11/15.
  • M. Orcutt, “DARPA's New Neural Implant Has a Sneaky Way of Getting Inside Heads,” M.I.T. Tech. Rev., 2016;, 09/02/16.
  • D. Ratner, M. Ratner, New Weapons for New Wars: Nanotechnology and Homeland Security, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 2004.
  • P.S. Saha and S. Saha, “Clinical trials of medical devices and implants: Ethical concerns,” IEEE Eng. Med. & Biol. Mag., vol. 7, pp. 86–87, 1988.
  • S. Saha and P. Saha, “Biomedical ethics and the biomedical engineer: A review,” Critical Reviews in Biomedical Eng., vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 163–201, 1988.
  • P. Tucker, “The Military Is Building Brain Chips to Treat PTSD,” The Atlantic, 2014;, 29/05/2014.

DARPA's RAM Project

In 2012, the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) confirmed plans to create nanosensors to monitor the health of soldiers on battlefields [2]. In 2014, ExtremeTech [3] reported on a 2013 DARPA project titled the “Restoring Active Memory (RAM) Project.” Ultimately the aim of RAM was:

“to develop a prototype implantable neural device that enables recovery of memory in a human clinical population. Additionally, the program encompasses the development of quantitative models of complex, hierarchical memories and exploration of neurobiological and behavioral distinctions between memory function using the implantable device versus natural learning and training” [4].

Several months later, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) published on their web site an article on how DARPA was developing wireless implantable brain prostheses for service members and veterans who had suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) memory loss [5]. Quoting here from the article:

“Called neuroprotheses, the implant would help declarative memory, which consciously recalls basic knowledge such as events, times and places…”
“these neuroprosthetics will be designed to bridge the gaps in the injured brain to help restore that memory function… Our vision is to develop neuroprosthetics for memory recovery in patients living with brain injury and dysfunction.”
“The neuroprosthetics developed and tested over the next four years would be as a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use.”

The U.S. DOD also noted that traumatic brain injury has affected about 270 000 U.S. service members since 2000, and another 1.7 million civilians. The DOD said that they would begin to focus their attention on service members first [6]. Essentially the program is meant to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders, using electronic devices implanted in the brain. Treated disorders range from depression, to anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder [7]. The bulk of the15 million) and the University of Pennsylvania ($22.5 million), in collaboration with the Minneapolis-based biomedical device company Medtronic [8].

More Information

Visual proceedings of the 9th Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security, including powerpoint presentations, are available [9]. The workshop was held during the 2016 IEEE Norbert Wiener Conference, at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Several DARPA-funded neurologists from the Vascular Bionics Laboratory at the University of Melbourne were invited to present at the workshop, including a team led by Thomas Oxley, M.D. [10]. (Oxley did not personally appear as he was in the U.S. on a training course related to intensive neurosurgical training.)

The military implantable technologies field at large is fraught with bioethical implications. Many of these issues were raised at the Workshop, and remain unanswered. If there is going to be a significant investment in advancing new technologies for soldiers suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the military, there needs to be commensurate funding invested to address unforeseen challenges. In fact, it is still unclear whether U.S. service members must accept participation in experimental brain research if asked, or if they can decline in place of other nonintrusive medical help.


1. K. Michael, "Mental Health Implantables and Side Effects", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 5-17.

2. B. Unruh, "U.S. Military Developing Spychips for Soldiers", WND, [online] Available:

3. S. Anthony, "US military begins work on brain implants that can restore lost memories experiences", ExtremeTech, [online] Available:

4. "Restoring Active Memory (RAM)", [online] Available:

5. T. M. Cronk, DARPA Developing Implants to Help with TBI Memory Loss, US Department of Defense.

6. T. M. Cronk, DARPA Developing Implants to Help with TBI Memory Loss, US Department of Defense.

7. John Hamilton, "Military Plans To Test Brain Implants To Fight Mental Disorders",, [online] Available:

8. Tanya Lewis, "US Military Developing Brain Implants to Restore Memory", LiveScience, [online] Available:

9. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, J.C. Galliot, R. Nicholls, "The Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector", The Ninth Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security (SINS16).

 10. "Minimally Invasive “Stentrode” Shows Potential as Neural Interface for Brain: Implantable device repurposes stent technology to enable direct recording from neurons",, [online] Available:


Citation: Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, Jai C. Galliot, Rob Nicholls, "Socio-Ethical Implications of Implantable Technologies in the Military Sector", 15 March 2017, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 7-9, 10.1109/MTS.2017.2670219.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Military communication, Military technology, Implantable biomedical devices, Nanotechnology

INSPEC: ethical aspects, nanofabrication, night vision, radiofrequency identification, social sciences, implantable technologies socio-ethical implication, military sector, nanotechnology, internal assessment committee, RFID implant, fabrication process, military marketplace, night vision,durability, super-soldier

Gone Fishing

Figure 1. Packing for a full month away. Everything but the kitchen sink.

Figure 1. Packing for a full month away. Everything but the kitchen sink.

On the 9th of December in 2015, I set out for a camping trip with my three young children to the Sapphire Coast of Australia, toward the New South Wales and Victorian border (Figure 1). The last time I had driven through this stunning part of the world, was when my parents decided to take their four children across country in a Ford Cortina station wagon to visit their first cousins on apricot and citrus farms in South Australia.

I turned eight years of age over that summer, and the memories of that trip are etched into our hearts. We've laughed countless times over events on that holiday, all of which were borne from a “lack of access” to technology, resulting in “close-ess” and “togetherness.” Loxton, South Australia, only had two television channels back then-the ABC news, and 5A which showed endless games and replays of cricket. While we grew to love cricket — we had no choice - we welcomed every opportunity to physically help our cousins gather fruit using nothing but ladders and our bare hands.

It was the festive season, and I remember lots and lots of family gatherings, parties, and outdoor lamb-spit barbecues. We gathered to eat, and dance, and our elders reminisced over what life was like in the village in Greece, and tell us funny stories about growing up with hardly any material possessions. Highlights included: when a photographer visited the village once every other year to take pictures with his humungous boxed contraption, which he would hide behind; the memory of the first time a car was spotted trying to come into the village; walking to school one hour away with shoes made out of goat skin (if not barefoot); and the harsh unheated winters and boiling hot summers over scenic Sparta.

It was a kind of celebration of life when I think back. It was so carefree, clean and pure, and joyous! Everyone lived in the moment. No one took pictures of their food to post to Instagram, no one had their head buried in front of a screen watching YouTube on demand, and we were outside in the fresh air awestruck by the beauty of the glistening stars that shone so bright in the night sky (and getting bitten by mosquitos while doing so). It was a kind of SnapChat without the “Snap.” On that trip I gained an appreciation for the land, and its importance in sustaining us as human beings.

As I reflect on that time, we travelled through remote parts of Australia with nothing but ourselves. We were too poor to stay at hotels, so dad ingeniously turned our station-wagon into a caravan, or so it seemed to us when the back seat folded forward and the travelling bags were placed on the roof rack secured with a blue tarpaulin.

Figure 2. The great Australian outdoor toilet, proverbially known as a “dunny” Used in one camp site the kids endearingly nicknamed “Kalaru Poo.”

Figure 2. The great Australian outdoor toilet, proverbially known as a “dunny” Used in one camp site the kids endearingly nicknamed “Kalaru Poo.”

We had no mobile phone in the car, no portable wifi-enabled tablet, no gaming DS, and certainly no down-screen DVD player or in-car navigation system to interrupt the ebb and flow of a family confined to a small space for six weeks. Mum would put on a few Greek cassettes for us to sing along to (Dad's “best ofs” which he had dubbed from the radio), and we paid particular attention to the landscape and wildlife. Mum would tell stories nostalgically about the time before we were born and how she left her homeland at seventeen on her own. And dad would talk about the struggles of losing his mother just before the start of World War II, and how his schooling was interrupted in third class as towns were burned to the crisp by the invaders, and how lucky we were to have a chance at education in a peaceful nation. All the while my brother Arthur was pointing at how far we had driven with his AO mapliterally thousands of kilometres-which gave me a great sense of space and time that has stayed with me to this day. And of course, I do recollect the unforgettable chant of my little sister and big sister in near unison, “are we there yet?”

Last December 2015, after a demanding year in my various roles that included bi-monthly long-haul travel, I was determined to “shut down” the outside world, and give my children what my parents had given me, in all the same simplicity (Figure 2). I somehow needed to give my children my full attention for a four-week duration without a laptop in tow, ensuring that my body and mind would recover from the year that was. I knew I was drifting into overload in September 2015, when on one occasion, I found myself asking my husband which side of the road I should be driving on, even when I was in my home town.

Figure 3. The most spectacular and secluded Nelson Beach down the trail of Nelson Lake Rd near Mogareeka, NSW.

Figure 3. The most spectacular and secluded Nelson Beach down the trail of Nelson Lake Rd near Mogareeka, NSW.

Figure 4. My youngest walking near the most spectacular Wallagoot Gap. We spent the day out at this magical place, swimming with the fish.

Figure 4. My youngest walking near the most spectacular Wallagoot Gap. We spent the day out at this magical place, swimming with the fish.

When one loves life and what they do, it is easy to feel so energized that you don't feel the need to stop… but “stop” I did. I wanted to reconnect with the natural environment in a big way, with my kids, and my inner self. I found myself asking those deep questions about creation - who, what, when, how? What an incredible world we live in! How does it all work and hang together as it does? I felt so thankful. Thankful for my family, my friends, my work, nature, life, Australia. It is so easy to take it for granted.

Each day, we'd choose a different place to visit, not excluding unsealed roads that led to secluded beaches, lakes, and inlets (Figures 3 and 4). Every morning we were awakened by the birdlife - a strange creature would call out at 4:30 a.m. for about 15 minutes straight, and then give it a rest; spotted lizards a few meters long on the road, and lots of kangaroos coming out of hiding at dusk to socialize. While we swam we could see the fish in the sea (with and without snorkels), and we got to speak with complete strangers, feeling like we had all the time in the world to do so.

At historical places, we learned about indigenous people like “King Billy” of the Yuin clan who would often be seen walking unheard distances in the 1950s in the dense shrub between Jervis Bay and Eden − 300 km (Figure 5).


Figure 5. The Yuin people (aka Thurga) are the Australian Aborigines from the South Coast of New South Wales. At top are images of legendary “King Billy” as he was nicknamed.

Figure 5. The Yuin people (aka Thurga) are the Australian Aborigines from the South Coast of New South Wales. At top are images of legendary “King Billy” as he was nicknamed.

My kids began to make comments about how resourceful the aborigines would have been, catching fresh fish, making new walking tracks, and being blessed to live in a pristine world before the built environment changed it so radically (Figure 5). It was not difficult for me to imagine throwing in my current lifestyle for the serenity, peace, and tranquillity of the bush. The kids and I would be outside under the sun for at least 12 hours each day, and it was effortless and filled with activities, and so very much fulfilling (Figure 6).

Figure 6. The sun setting on New Year's Eve celebrations in 2015 in Merimbula, NSW

Figure 6. The sun setting on New Year's Eve celebrations in 2015 in Merimbula, NSW

Figure 7. Pre-bedtime entertainment in our tent. Another game of Snakes & Ladders anyone?

Figure 7. Pre-bedtime entertainment in our tent. Another game of Snakes & Ladders anyone?

The kids didn't watch any television on this trip even though they had access to it in one camp spot (Figure 7). I spoke on the cell phone only a handful of times, and on some days I did not use electricity (they were my favorite days). Many times we did not have any cell phone coverage for large parts of the day. I learnt some important things about each of my children on this trip and about myself and the world we live in (Figure 8). And I'd love to do it all again, sooner than later.

We've been sold the idea that technology provides security for us but I am of the opinion that at least psychologically it leads to insecurity (1). It is a paradox. My eldest kept asking what we would do if we got a flat tire or engine trouble deep down a dirt road where we had no connectivity, or what we'd do in the event of a bushfire (Figure 9). Good questions I thought, and answered them by driving more slowly and carefully, avoiding sharp rocks and potholes, and more than anything, turning to prayer “God, keep me and my children safe. Help us not to panic at a time of trouble, and to know what to do. Help us not to be harmed. And help us not to have fear.” For all intense and purposes, technology which has been sold to us for security, breeds a false sense of security and even greater fear. We have learned to rely on mobile phones or the Internet, even when we don't need them. It has become a knee-jerk reaction, even if we have the stored information at hand readily available.


Figure 8. The kids posing for a photo with a big snail at Merimbula's Main Beach. Such a great opportunity for all of us to bond even closer together.

Figure 8. The kids posing for a photo with a big snail at Merimbula's Main Beach. Such a great opportunity for all of us to bond even closer together.

I am thankful I turned to art on this trip - a decision I made a few days before I left my home (see cover image of this issue). I loved speaking to real people, in person, and asking them to participate (2). Being able to hear their laughs, and see the expressions on their faces, and listen to their respective stories was so satisfying. On a few occasions I embraced people I met after opening my heart to life matters, challenges, joys, and sorrows. The cool thing? I met lots of people that reminded me of my mum and dad; lots of people who had three or four or more (or no) children - and felt connected more than ever before to the big family we call “society.” We'd sit around at the beach, at the rock pool, or the camp site, listening and learning from one another, and somehow indirectly encouraging one another onwards. We soon realized these were shared experiences and there was a solidarity, a “oneness,” an empathy between us.

Figure 9. Going down a steep and narrow unsealed road with lots of potholes at Mimosa Rocks National Park. One way down and only one way up.

Figure 9. Going down a steep and narrow unsealed road with lots of potholes at Mimosa Rocks National Park. One way down and only one way up.

We returned home a few days early due to heavy rains, and unexpectedly I did not feel the drive to return to my email trove that I figured had grown substantially in size. The thought crossed my mind that I could get heavily depressed over the thousands of messages I had missed. But I controlled that temptation. The last thing I wanted at that point was to get bogged down again in the rhythm of the digital world. Friends and colleagues might have been shocked that I did as I said I would do - utterly disconnect - but I learned something very fundamental… time away from the screen makes us more human as it inevitably brings us closer together, closer to nature, and also brings things into perspective.

Depending on our work, we can feel captive behind the screen at times, or at least to the thousands of messages that grace our laptops and mobile phones. They make us even more digital and mechanical - in intonation, action, even movement and thought. Breaking with this feeling and regaining even a little bit of control back is imperative every so often, lest we become machine-like ourselves. It is healthy to be “Just human,” without the extensions and the programs. In fact, it is essential to revitalize us and help us find our place in the world, as sometimes technology leads us too quickly ahead of even ourselves.

While it is an intuitive thing to do, you might find yourself having to work that little bit harder to make the unplugged time happen. But breaking free of all the tech (and associated expectations) occasionally, reinforces what it once meant to be human.


1. M. Lacy, "Cities of panic and siege psychosis" in Security Technology and Global Politics: Thinking with Virilio, New York, NY:Routledge, pp. 69f, 2014.

2. K. Michael, "Unintended consequences 1–100", [online] Available:

Citation: Katina Michael, "Gone Fishing: Breaking with the Biometric Rhythm of Tech-Centricism", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine ( Volume: 35, Issue: 4, Dec. 2016 ), pp. 6 - 9, Date of Publication: 19 December 2016, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2016.2618738.

Unintended Consequences: A Study Guide



Now that you've immersed yourself in some of the challenges and paradoxes we face as a society (as our cities, businesses, governments, and personal lives become more digitized), it is time to reflect on everything you've read.

As much as we hope you've enjoyed this collection of articles, we really want you to find value in the discussions and debates that come from it. We have included some questions to get you started. Remember, there often isn't one right answer. These issues are complex. Sometimes the best answer to a challenging question is simply to ask more questions; to interrogate the issues at hand, using a multidisciplinary lens. So consider these questions a launch pad that will inspire you to ask your own questions, too. Share your questions with your peers in small groups and seek to brainstorm together on what possible future directions you can take to ensure these matters are integrated into development frameworks.

We thank the authors in this issue for assistance in drawing out these major themes.

“Valuations and Human Values (A.K.A. the Irony of Granola Bar Economics)”

  1. Why did people throw rocks at the Google bus? Were the people on the buses really the targets of their animosity?
  2. According to Rushkoff, growth is the prevalent feature of the digital economy. What impact does that have on companies? What impact does that have on workers? What impact does that have on neighborhoods and communities?
  3. Is there a way to keep the possibilities that digital tools afford, without the commensurate detrimental effects? What solutions are there?

“Let's Protest: Surprises in Communicating against Repression”

  1. Select a social networking application (e.g., Snapchat). What are its strengths and weaknesses for serving ordinary users and nonviolent campaigners?
  2. Suppose you are put in charge of a country's technology policy today. What communication technology would you promote to ensure that a dictator could never come to power? Explain your reasoning.
  3. Imagine that you want to assist some foreign friends who live under an authoritarian government. You can mainly help by using the Internet. What skills do you think are most important for you to learn? You might reflect on the possibilities of learning foreign languages' encryption, Web design, data collection, data verification, organizing denial-of-service attacks, and hacking. How will these skills help your friends specifically?

“Predictive Policing and Civilian Oversight”

  1. Would you trust software more than you would a law enforcement officer?

  2. Who should be held responsible when the software described in the article by Hirsh makes a mistake or is in error?

  3. Should there be limits to how police use technology?

  4. What do you think is required to balance the needs of policing and the needs of privacy?

“The Converging Veillances: Border Crossings in an Interconnected World”

  1. List the consequences of the converging veillances. What are additional sociocultural consequences of these risks not addressed by the authors?
  2. What existing controls are in place to address the risks you have identified? How effective are these controls in the design and operation phases of development?
  3. What are responsible, reasonable, and appropriate strategies to reduce the prevalence of the risks you have identified?

“Privacy in Public”

  1. Describe the concept of “über-veillance” or omnipresent surveillance. How does it differ from “regular” surveillance?
  2. What is the “mosaic” theory of privacy? Explain why such a theory is necessary today.
  3. Taking one of your regular school or work days as an example, list in chronological order all of your encounters with cameras as you go about your day. Are you surprised by how many you can count? Why or why not?
  4. Thinking about the example of the interface created by Google to allow people to request the removal of their personal information, list similar privacy-protective technological measures that are avail-able on social media, such as Facebook.
  5. Do you agree that people in a public space should have a right to privacy and anonymity, or do they give up such rights once they enter the public sphere?

“Privacy in the Age of the Smartphone”

  1. What do you share with others online? Do you have a Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, or other account?
  2. What parts of the information that you share with others is beyond your control? For example, who has access to your Facebook page—just your friends on Facebook, or is it public? What other sharing do you engage in that can be accessed by people you don't know?
  3. Smartphones have become much more powerful in the last few years. How has your data footprint grown over the last two to three years?
  4. What new services are you using today that you were not using in your first year of university? Has the volume of data and content that you share increased significantly? Do you feel you can still keep track of and manage that data?

“Paradoxes in Information Security”

  1. Think of your everyday life. In what ways do information security procedures interrupt you on a daily basis?
  2. In terms of information systems that you use, who and what define what security is?
  3. Any incremental additional function, including information security, to an information system increases its complexity but also adds new ways of using and exploiting it. Can complexities that are constantly changing be controlled in any way?

“International Council on Global Privacy and Security”

  1. Why is it important that we abandon zero-sum paradigms if we intend to preserve our privacy and freedom?
  2. Beyond privacy concerns, what impact does state surveillance have on innovation and prosperity, at a societal level?
  3. Why is it important that artificial intelligence and machine learning have privacy embedded into the algorithms used, by design?

“Problems with Moral Intuitions Regarding Technologies”

  1. How often do you stop and think about the moral implications of the technologies you use?
  2. Have you ever experienced a technology feeling wrong or right?
  3. Are for-profit corporations the ideal developers and suppliers of technology?
  4. Should the ones who know how it does work think more about how it should or should not work?
  5. Is technology neutral? Can it be moral or immoral?

IEEE Keywords: Technological innovation, Technology forecasting, Social implications of technology, Social factors, Human factors, Ethics, Privacy

INSPEC: social sciences, human values, unintended consequences, study guide, repression, civilian oversight

Citation: Ramona Pringle, Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, 2015, IEEE Potentials, Volume: 35, Issue: 5, Sept.-Oct. 2016, pp. 47 - 48, Date of Publication: 08 September 2016, DOI: 10.1109/MPOT.2016.2569758

Can Good Standards Propel Unethical Technologies?

Between 2010 and 2016 I accepted a voluntary post representing the Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA) on the standardization of the forensic analysis process [1]. The CFA represents most major Australian national consumer organizations that work together to represent consumer rights.

The committee I was on was Standards Australia's “CH041 — Forensic Analysis” focused on the collection, analysis, and storage of materials as well as interpretation and reporting of results for forensic purposes (Figure 1). The Committee's scope included digital forensics, DNA, soil examination, toxicology, document examination, audio and video analysis, drug analysis, blood alcohol examination, chemical trace evidence, clandestine laboratory investigations, fire and explosion investigation, ballistics, forensic biology, forensic botany, crime scene investigation, fingerprint identification, vehicle examination, shoe and tire impressions, toolmarks, evidence recovery, exhibit storage, bloodstain pattern interpretation, forensic anthropology, forensic entomology, forensic odontology, and forensic pathology. Over a period of six years, six standards were created in the Australia and New Zealand landscape [2] (Table 1).

Figure 1. Bus drivers across the West Midlands were equipped with mini DNA kits in 2012 to help police track anyone who spit at them or fellow passengers.“Spit kits”—which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags—allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis. Samples are stored in a refrigerator before being sent for forensics analysis, with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.Date: Nov. 23, 2012, 16:03. Courtesy of Palnatoke, West Midlands Police.

Figure 1. Bus drivers across the West Midlands were equipped with mini DNA kits in 2012 to help police track anyone who spit at them or fellow passengers.“Spit kits”—which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags—allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis. Samples are stored in a refrigerator before being sent for forensics analysis, with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.Date: Nov. 23, 2012, 16:03. Courtesy of Palnatoke, West Midlands Police.

All of the meetings I attended were very well organized, and provided adequate materials with enough time to digest documentation. Queries were dealt with in a very professional manner both via email and in person. The location of these standards meetings happened at the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) in Melbourne Victoria — perhaps a non-neutral location, but regardless important as a hub for our gatherings. There was adequate funding provided to allow people to come together several times a year to discuss the development of the standards and the rest was achieved via email correspondence. Of course, there were a number of eminent leaders in the group with a discernible agenda that dominated discussions, but for all intents and purposes, these folks were well-meaning, fair, and willing to listen. It was obvious that the standardization process was paramount to those using forensic data on a day-to-day basis.

Representatives who served on that committee had diverse backgrounds: police officers, analysts from forensic laboratories, lawyers, statisticians, consumer representatives, and academics in the broad area. I never felt like I was ever asking a redundant question, people spent time explaining things no matter how technical or scientific the content. Members of the committee were willing to hear about consumer perspectives when key points had to be raised, but for some the importance of the topic was circumvented by the need to get the forensics right in order for criminals to be brought to justice.

In March of 2010, I graduated with my Masters of Transnational Crime Prevention degree in the Faculty of Law at the University of Wollongong. My major project was a study of the European Court of Human Rights ruling S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom [3], under the supervision of former British law enforcement officer, Associate Professor Clive Harfield. The European Court of Human Rights sitting as a Grand Chamber was led by President Jean-Paul Costa. S. and Marper complained under Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [4] that the authorities had continued to retain their fingerprints and cellular samples and DNA profiles after the criminal proceedings against them had ended with an acquittal or had been discontinued. Both applicants had asked for their fingerprints and DNA samples to be destroyed, but in both cases the police refused [5]. My involvement in the enactment of forensic standards in the Australian landscape was to ensure that Australia did not end up with blanket coverage surveillance of the populace, as has happened in the United Kingdom where about 6 million people (1 in 11) have their DNA stored on the national DNA database (NDNA), and over 37% of black ethnic minorities (BEM) are registered on the database with indefinite DNA retention of samples or profiles [6].

I learned a lot about standards setting through the Forensic Analysis project. Although I had studied the theoretical importance of standards in the process of innovation, and I had spent some time in an engineering organization during a peak period of telecommunications standards and protocol developments, I never quite realized that a standard could propel a particular product or process further than was ever intended. Of course the outcome of the BETAMAX versus VHS war has gone down in engineering folklore [7], but when standards have human rights implications, they take on a far greater importance.

Although international standards usually take a long time to bring into existence (at least 2 years), at the national level if there is monetary backing, and a large enough number of the right kind of people in a room with significant commercial or government drivers, a standard can be defined in a fairly straightforward manner within about 1 year. No matter the query, issues can usually be addressed or abated by industry representatives if you can spend the time necessary on problem solving and troubleshooting. Consumer representatives on standards panels, however, unlike paid professionals, have very limited resources and bandwidth when it comes to innovation. They usually have competing interests; a life outside the standards environment that they are contributing to, and thus fall short from the full impact they could make in any committee that they serve if there was financial support. In the commercial world, the greater the opportunity cost of forgoing the development of a standard, the greater the driver to fulfil the original intent.

And thus, I was asked at the completion of my CFA role by the convenor Regina Godfredson, Standards Co-ordinator of the CFA Standards Projects, whether or not I had any thoughts about future standards because “standards” were one thing that the CFA received funding for, in terms of the voluntary contributions of its representatives and membership being seconded to standards committees.

Table 1. Forensic analysis — Australian standards.

Table 1. Forensic analysis — Australian standards.

As Regina and I brainstormed, I described a few projects pertaining to emerging technologies that required urgent attention from the consumer perspective. But the one that stuck out in my mind as requiring standardization was non-medical implants in humans (Figure 2). I kept thinking about the event report I cited in 2007 published on the MAUDE database of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) web site, for the “removal of an implant” that acted as a personal health record (PHR) unique ID [8]. In 2004, the company VeriChip had an implant device approved by the FDA for use in humans [9]. The device was to be inserted in the right tricep, but as applications for access control and electronic payment were trialled, the device soon found itself in people's wrists and hands for usability [10]. Still that event report had got me thinking. How could a company (or for that matter a government administration) be so inept in creating a device for implantation with no removal process? Of course, had the VeriChip device not been related to any health application, it would not have required any FDA approval whatsoever, which is equally problematic when ethical questions are considered.


Figure 2.

A surgeon implants British scientist Dr. Mark Gasson in his left hand with an RFID microchip (Mar. 16, 2009). Mark's Ph.D. scholarship with Prof. Kevin Warwick was sponsored by the author's former employer Nortel Networks. Photo taken: March 16, 2009, 14:44:22. Photo courtesy of Paul Hughes.

The questions that stem from this mini case are numerous. But perhaps the most important one is: does a standard set by a standards or regulatory body open the floodgates to propelling a given innovation forward, even if that innovation is controversial or even viewed as risky or unethical by the community at large? I had to ask myself the pros and cons of spearheading such a standard into Australia and New Zealand. Standards at the local level begin to gather momentum when they are recognized by the Australian Standards organization, but more so when they are picked up and highlighted by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). There are also no commensurate “ethics applications” accompanying the submission of human augmentation devices, as noted by Joe Carvalko, a U.S.-based patent attorney and implant recipient [11].

Did I really wish to be involved in such a process when I believe deeply, for anything other than therapeutics and prosthesis, there should not be a standard? Do I think this is the future of e-payments being sold to us? There have been countless campaigns by VISA to show us the “mini-Visa” [12] or the contactless VISA “tap and go” system or the VISA embedded in our phone or e-wallet or even smartwatch. Do I think we should believe the companies pushing this next phase? No, I do not. As consumers we do have a choice of whether or not to adopt. As a technology professional do I wish to be the one to propel this forward? Absolutely not. Does it mean it will never happen? No, it doesn't.

As I continued my conversation with Regina Godfredson, I realized deeply, that while CFA would get some major attention in funding for being leaders in this space, the negative would be that we would also be heavily responsible and accountable for what would come out of the group as we would be the driving force behind it. The consumer side of me says “get in there quick to contribute to the discussion and push the importance of ethics within an information technology implant scenario.” The academic side of me says sit back and let someone else do it, but make sure to be ready for when this may take place (and it is taking place right now). Just yesterday, I received a telephone call from one of Japan's leading games suppliers who wants to integrate the human augmentation scenario into Deus Ex's, “Mankind Divided” game, to be launched in Australia in the last week of August with an implants shopfront.

The conversation with the publicist went something like this: “Hello Katina. I note you are one of the leading researchers on the topic of the socio-legal-ethical implications of implants. Look, I want to know, if there are any legal issues with us launching a campaign for our new game that includes an implantation shop. I've rung everyone I can think of, and everyone keeps passing me on to someone else and cannot give me a direct answer. I've tried the Therapeutic Goods Administration here, but they say they don't care because it is not a medical device. I've looked up laws, and I can't seem to find anything on implants for non-medical applications. I've spoken to police, and ditto they don't seem to care. So what do you think?” It goes without saying that that 50 minute conversation ended up being one of the most stimulating non-academic discussions I've had on the topic. But also, I finished by saying read Katherine Albrecht's Bodily Integrity Act in draft since 2007. The publicist kept stating: “I hope from this engagement to put forward a framework allowing for human implants.”

My concern with going forward has naught to do with my ability to answer very complex biomedical ethical questions as I've thought about them for over 20 years. My concern has much to do with whether or not we should even be dabbling with all of this, knowing what we know of the probable uberveillance trajectory. I am sure I could create some very good standards to some very unethical value-laden technologies.

I will not say much about what is an ethical or unethical technology. I will simply say that pervasive technologies have an intentionality, and they have inherent qualities that can be used positively or negatively. Talking to social shaping of technology experts, I would be labeled as a follower of the technological determinist school of thought. But clearly here, when we investigate the piercing of the skin, we have a complexity that we've never before faced in the non-medical commercial space. It crosses the boundaries of negligence, consent, and human rights, which we cannot ignore or treat as just another run-of-the-mill technological innovation.


1. Consumers Federation of Australia, [online] Available:

2. CH-041 - Forensic Analysis, [online] Available:

3. Case of S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom, 2008, [online] Available:

4. Article 8 ECHR, 2016, [online] Available: http//echr-online.into/article-8-echr/.

5. K. Michael, , "The road from S and Marper to the Prum Treaty and the implications on human rights" in Cross-Border Law Enforcement: Regional Law Enforcement Cooperation - European Australian and Asia-Pacific Perspectives, Routledge, pp. 243-258, 2012.

6. K. Michael, "The legal social and ethical controversy of the collection and storage of fingerprint profiles and DNA samples in forensic science", pp. 48-60, 2010.

7. A.R. Dennis, B.A. Reinicke, "Beta versus VHS and the acceptance of electronic brainstorming technology", MIS Quart, vol. 28, pp. 1-20, 2004.

8. MAUDE Adverse Event Report VeriChip Corporation - VeriMed Patient Identificator - VeriChip Implant, July 2007, [online] Available:

9. 21 CFR Part 880 [Docket No. 2004N-0477] Medical Devices; General Hospital and Personal Use Devices; Classification of Implantable Radiofrequency Transponder System for Patient Identification and Health Information, [online] Available:

10. A. Masters, K. Michael, "Lend me your arms: The use and implications of humancentric RFID", Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, vol. 6, pp. 29-39, 2007.

11. J. Carvalko, K. Michael, "Crossing The Evolutionary Gap", Joseph Carvalko Speaks With Katina MichaelOn His Fiction Piece, July 2016, [online] Available: https//

12. "Visa introduces contactless mini card making payments faster and more convenient than ever", Business Wire, Aug. 2006, [online] Available:

Citation: Katina Michael, Can Good Standards Propel Unethical Technologies? IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 35, Issue: 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 6 - 9.

Smart Toys that are the Stuff of Nightmares


At the top of some children's Christmas present wish list in 2015 would have been the new Hello Barbie doll [1]. Mattel's latest doll connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi and uses interactive voice response (IVR) to effectively converse with children [2]. When the doll's belt button is pushed, conversations are recorded and uploaded to servers operated by Mattel's partner, ToyTalk [3].

Hello Barbie tries to engage with children in intelligible and freeflowing conversation by asking and responding to questions, as well as being able to learn about its users over time [4]. As Mattel's website says [1]: “Just like a real friend, Hello Barbie doll listens and adapts to the user's likes and dislikes” [5].

But is Barbie the Friend She Promises to be?

Some might welcome Hello Barbie, and similar talking dolls such as My Friend Cayla [6], as a fun and novel development in smart toys that will keep children occupied. Others have voiced concerns, such as the #HellNoBarbie [7] from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood [8].

As one reporter found, Hello Barbie prompts those conversing with her to divulge information about themselves, but when the focus is on her she quickly changes the subject to invariably gender-normative subjects and fashion [9]. “Hello Barbie: Let's get serious and talk about something really important: fashion.”

She mines children for personal details but gives little in return, other than vacuous compliments and fashion advice. Her friend credentials come further into question as she routinely discloses all the information gathered to ToyTalk, who operate the speech processing services for Hello Barbie.

What's in the Privacy Statement?

As with many products, the detail that really matters is in the fine print. In this instance the fine print is in ToyTalk's Hello Barbie privacy statement, so there are a few important points to consider before wrapping her up and putting her under a Christmas tree [10].

ToyTalk outlines that it may:

“[…] use, store, process, convert, transcribe, analyze or review Recordings in order to provide, maintain, analyze and improve the functioning of the Services, to develop, test or improve speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms, or for other research and development and data analysis purposes.”

Essentially it can use the information gathered from the child, or anyone who converses with Hello Barbie, for any purpose that it chooses under the vague wording “data analysis purposes.” ToyTalk will also share recordings with unknown “vendors, consultants, and other service providers” as well as “responding to lawful subpoenas, warrants, or court orders.” Has Hello Barbie become a sophisticated surveillance device masquerading as an innocuous child's toy [11]?

In England, the draft Investigatory Powers Bill introduced “equipment interference,” which allows security and intelligence agencies to interfere with electronic equipment in order to obtain data, such as communications from a device [12]. This would mean that government agencies could lawfully take over children's toys and use them to monitor suspects.

These data collection practices are significant, as they reach much deeper than marketing practices that collect information about children's likes and preferences. In conversing with toys, such as Hello Barbie, children reveal their innermost thoughts and private play conversations, details of which are intended for no one else to hear. Once a child has developed a friendship with Hello Barbie, it might not be so easy to take her away.

Security Risks

ToyTalk does recognize that “no security measures are perfect” and that no method of data transmission can ever be “guaranteed against any interception or other type of misuse.” Just last month the toy maker VTech reported 11.6 million accounts were compromised in a cyberattack, including those of 6.3 million children [13]. Photos of children and parents, audio files, chat logs, and the name, gender, and birthdate of children were accessed by the hackers [14].

It's not just toys that are at risk [15]. There are ongoing reports of baby monitors being hacked so that outsiders can view live footage of children (and family), talk to the infant, and even control the camera remotely [16].

Smart toys are going to be tempting propositions for hackers, with some already proving that they could make My Friend Cayla swear [17], to more usual targets such as hacking credit card details [18].

Barbie has also been in hot water before [19]. The Barbie Video Girl [20] has a camera lens embedded in the doll's chest disguised as a pendant which prompted the FBI to issue a warning that it could be used to make child pornography [21].

The Internet of Things provides direct access to children and their spaces through an increasing array of products and gizmos [22]. Such security breaches not only act as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of children's high-tech toys, but also lead us to reflect on other risks that the trend in so-called smart toys might be introducing into children's lives.

An Invasion of Play

But Hello Barbie doesn't just reveal a child's private conversations to large corporations, and potentially law enforcement agencies. She also tells tales much closer to home - to parents. A smartphone app enables parents to listen to the conversations between their child and their Hello Barbie. They can also receive alerts when new recordings become available, and can access and review the audio files. Anyone with access to the parent account can also choose to share recordings and other content via Facebook. Twitter, or You-Tube. While some may see this as a novel feature, it is important to consider the potential loss of privacy to the child.

Play is an important part of the way children learn about the world. A key part of this is the opportunity for private spaces to engage in creative play without concerns about adults intruding. It looks like Hello Barbie's dream to be a fashion-setter might just come true as she pioneers a new trend for smart and connected toys. In turn, the child loses out on both a trusted toy and on the spaces where they can lose themselves in other worlds without worrying about who's listening in.


This article is adapted from an article published in The Conversation titled “Hello Barbie, hello hackers: Accessing personal data will be child's play,” on Dec. 16, 2015. Read the original article


1. "Hello Barbie™ Doll - Blonde Hair", Mattel Shop, 2016, [online] Available:

2. K. Michael, A. Hayes, "High-tech child's play in the Cloud", IEEE Consumer Electronics Mag., vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 123-128, 2015.

3. "About us", Toy Talk, 2016, [online] Available:

4. "Hello Barbie is world's first interactive Barbie Doll", YouTube, Feb. 2015, [online] Available:

5. "CNET News - Saying hello to Hello Barbie", YouTube, Sept. 2015, [online] Available: 

6. My Friend Cayla, 2014, [online] Available:

7. "Hell no Barbie: 8 reasons to leave Hello Barbie on the shelf", Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, 2015, [online] Available:

8. 2016, [online] Available:

9. Z. Jason, "Hello Barbie: Fashion-obsessed talking doll thinks I'm amazing — Or so she said", The Guardian, Dec. 2015, [online] Available:

10. "Privacy policy", Toy Talk, Jan. 2016, [online] Available:

11. "Hello Barbie ‘creepy eavesdropping doll’ at New York Toy Fair violates privacy", YouTube, Mar. 2015, [online] Available:

12. Draft Investigatory Powers Bill U.K. Parliament, 2015, [online] Available:

13. "FAQ about cyber attack on VTech Learning Lodge", vtech, Feb. 2016, [online] Available:

14. D. Goodin, "Internet-connected Hello Barbie doll gets bitten by nasty POODLE crypto bug", The Guardian, Dec. 2015, [online] Available:

15. P. Timms, "Hello Barbie: Wi-fi enabled doll labelled a bedroom security risk", ABC News (Australia), Nov. 2015, [online] Available:

16. K. Albrecht, L. Mcintyre, "Privacy nightmare: When baby monitors go bad", IEEE Technology & Society Mag., Sept. 2015, [online] Available:

17. K. Munro, "Making children's toys swear",, Jan. 2015, [online] Available:

18. R. Hackett, "Hello Barbie Doll vulnerable to hackers", Fortune, Dec. 2015, [online] Available:

19. K. Michael, "The FBI's cybercrime alert on Mattel's Barbie Video Girl: A possible method for the production of child pornography or just another point of view".

20. "Barbie® Video Girl™ Doll", Mattel Fisher Price, 2015, [online] Available:

21. L. Goode, "FBI: Video Barbie could hold evidence in child abuse cases", WSJ, Dec. 2010, [online] Available:

22. K. Albrecht, K. Michael, "Connected: To everyone and everything", IEEE Technology & Society Mag., vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 31-34, 2013.

Keywords: security of data, smart toys, data transmission, ToyTalk, Hello Barbie, security measures

Citation: Emmeline Taylor ; Katina Michael, Smart Toys that are the Stuff of Nightmares, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, (Volume: 35, Issue: 1, March 2016), pp. 8 - 10, Date of Publication: 10 March 2016, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2016.2527078

Reflecting on the Contribution of T&S Magazine to the IEEE


It's always important to stop, take a breath, and reflect on the activities one is engaged in. Sometimes we do this reflection willingly, and at other times there are formal structures within which we have to work that trigger the requirement periodically. It is always a good sign when a Committee knocks on your door asking for certain bits of data, and you are more than willing to share your learnings, with enthusiasm, and not just for the sake of the least amount of effort required to respond to a standard pro-forma.

This March, the IEEE Periodicals Review and Advisory Committee (PRAC) requested detailed data about the periodicals of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (IEEE-SSIT), providing three months for a written report to be submitted. The PRAC Review happens every five years and is an opportunity for IEEE to consider the contribution and validity of all its periodicals. For the Society in question, it is a chance to receive valuable feedback from experienced colleagues, look for areas to improve, consolidate, or expand, consider what was done well, and brainstorm on the opportunities that lie ahead.

The PRAC report that was submitted to IEEE in Fall 2015 was about 50 pages long. Katina Michael, Terri Bookman, Joe Herkert (by teleconference), Greg Adamson, and Lew and Bobbi Terman met with the PRAC Committee in New Jersey. We managed all the questions put to us by PRAC, and later received written feedback on our report, and responded accordingly to queries and clarifications.

It is now time to look at the next five years of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, but before doing so let us celebrate the milestones we've achieved together, and also spell out what we need to do better to keep growing and developing, as well as some of the measures we've put in place to overcome some significant issues as we've gone through a rapid expansion phase.


Figure 1. Concept map of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine article headings (March 2010–July 2015) generated using Leximancer.

Figure 1. Concept map of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine article headings (March 2010–July 2015) generated using Leximancer.

The first thing we would like to do is thank all the authors who have published their research with us in the last five years. It is such a privilege to work with professionals who sincerely care about how technology is impacting the world around them. We conducted a content analysis of paper titles since 2010 and generated the concept map in Figure 1. It is so encouraging to see diagrammatically that we are fulfilling the mission of our Society, with papers published in humanitarian engineering, engineering education, engineering ethics, sustainability, social implications, the interplay between technology and society, the role of government, and the development of systems to enrich our everyday lives with adequate energy. Privacy, security, and trust are prevalent themes also addressed in the digital data age of the Internet, as is acceptable use and user behavior with respect to smart applications.

Articles and Authors

During the study period, 272 individual articles were published with 452 author instances. Popular entry types included peer-reviewed articles (131), Commentaries (13), Book Reviews (35), Leading Edge columns (14), Opinion pieces (13), Viewpoint columns (5), Editorials (16) and Guest Editorials (6), as well as interviews, fiction, letters to the editor, news, policy and trends, Memoria, and Last Word columns. For a magazine that publishes only four times a year on a limited page budget, most recently of 80 pages per issue, we have really maximized space well. Particularly encouraging is the work toward internationalization that Keith Miller spearheaded and is still going strong. There has been a visible redistribution of author region location as can be seen in the pie chart in Figure 2, although we still require further expansion and outreach activities in Canada and Central/South America.

Figure 2. Authors by region IEEE-TSM 2010-2015.

Figure 2. Authors by region IEEE-TSM 2010-2015.

The caliber of our author affiliations are exceptional. A representative list of affiliations include: Arizona State University, Australian National University, Carnegie Mellon University, Copenhagen Business School, Cornell University, Delft University of Technology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, ESADE, ETH Zurich, Harvard University, Imperial College London, Kyoto University, M.I.T. Media Lab, Stanford University, Georgia Institute of Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, Tilburg University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Nanjing University, University of Sydney, University of Tokyo, University of Toronto, Virginia Tech, Zhejiang University.

Equally impressive are entries that have been affiliated with a variety of stakeholders, not just academia. These included for example:

  1. Applied industry submissions by employees of large technology corporations such as, Google, Accenture, Siemens Corporate Technology, Toshiba Research, Tata Consultancy, InfoSys Technologies, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Telecom ParisTech, Acconite Solutions, Vodafone, and IBM.
  2. Applied government and defence submissions by employees of various international ministries and commissions both in defence and non-defence institutions such as the Defence Science and Technology Corporation (DSTO), European Commission, Virginia Military Institute, West Point Military Academy, Ontario Privacy Commissioners Office, and Greek Ministry of Economy and Finance.
  3. Small-to-medium company submissions such as BRP Renaud & Partner, KVC Consultancy, Illuminating Concepts, Xylem Technologies, Modern Combatives, StartPage, Oxford Systematics, Xamax Consultancy, Trans Technology Group, Salinger Privacy, Lockstep Consulting, Iran Nanotechnology Business Network, Orica Mining Chemicals, and Socca INC.
  4. Non-government organizational submissions such as from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Australian Privacy Foundation.


IEEE-SSIT's Technology and Society Magazine is the only periodical that specializes in the social implications of technology – and on the interplay of technology and societal implications – from the perspective of a technical engineering society.

In the international publishing arena Technology and Society Magazine is considered as follows:

  1. an engineering periodical with a focus on societal implications of technology (privacy, security, affective, addictive, predictive, anticipatory, pervasive, invasive, ubiquitous, access, universal obligation, equity, borders, convenience, openness, value proposition, control, care, prosthetic, robotic, adaptive, surveillance, enforcement, employment, consumerism, innovation, human rights, gender, sustainability, and freedom and choice)
  2. a multidisciplinary periodical that includes perspectives from a variety of disciplines (legal, regulatory, philosophical, ethical, theological, cultural, anthropological, sociological, new media, economic, environmental, technological, scientific, health, medical, and policing)
  3. a diverse stakeholder reaching periodical that is relevant to entities along an upstream and downstream supply/value chain (business, raw material producers, designers, makers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, content providers, handset/wearable providers, operators and service providers, industry bodies, standards-setting organizations, non-government organizations, advocates, and users).

Table 1. Thematic “Technology” snapshot by volume and issue

Table 2. Thematic “Society” snapshot by volume and issue.


Breadth of Topic Coverage

The content we have received for publication is mostly two-pronged. On the one hand are the organizational and/or societal issues raised by each paper, and on the other hand is the technology that overcomes those stated problems. In addition, from the interplay of technology and society come positive and negative socio-economic impacts, social implications, and technical shortcomings that are important to discuss.

Special Sections and Special Issues

We have continued to host an annual special issue on select papers emanating from SSIT's International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS). In 2015 we also published a special issue on Norbert Wiener. Special section themes have also served as the basis for dialogue around emerging technologies. Some of these have included: the “Social Impacts of National Security Technologies” (vol. 31, no. 1), “Privacy in the Information Age” (vol. 31, no. 4), “Smart Grids and Social Networks” (vol. 33, no. 1), “Technology for Collective Action” (vol. 33, no. 3), “Social and Economic Sustainability” (vol. 34, no. 1). Co-locating like themed material has provided a richness for enjoying a single issue as a whole unit of evidence to ponder. At times articles submitted for review may “jump the queue” if they are immediately relevant to a socio-technical matter being addressed in that given issue, or in the media more broadly.

Online Social Media

As well as the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine there are several other ways to publish content relevant to the SSIT. These include the IEEE SSIT E-Newsletter (email, and several social media portals listed here:

  1. IEEESSIT Facebook (4991 members) that can be found here:
  2. IEEE-SSIT LinkedIN (3610 members)
  3. IEEESSIT Twitter (515 followers)

What's New??

Two major changes recently have been made to IEEE T&S Magazine: the way the Magazine looks in terms of creative design; and how articles are submitted to the editor for review. A lot of effort was expended by the Publications Committee around these two items, and when prospective funding became available, we responded accordingly.

New Format Creative Design

The Magazine has a new look and feel – everything from presentation, to the way that content is laid out, to the spacing and accompanying images. We have defined “new entry” types and enhanced existing ones. A stronger emphasis on varying stylistic contributions has been adopted to ensure a mixture of peer review and non-peer review perspectives—from Opinion, to Leading Edge technology insights, to Interviews, Commentaries and Last Word columns.

Acquiring and Implementing a New Workflow in Scholarone's Manuscript Central

We have acquired the IEEE standard for submission of Magazine/Journal manuscripts. This meant that an online workflow had to be defined for T&S Magazine that would align with ScholarOne. By year-end we will have reduced our accepted article backlog to include only outstanding Book Reviews. Beginning in 2016, our review time will decrease substantially, as will time until the final result for accept, major revision, minor revision, or reject status. We are confident with this measure, given the streamlining we have implemented. It is important to underscore however, that our goals do also hinge on the availability of reviewers and their timely feedback.


As T&S Magazine continues to grow, there are any number of opportunities we could investigate as future options. So far we are doing a solid job with our online downloads for articles published with 48 K papers being downloaded in 2014, placing us at about a 150/338 rank for IEEE publications.

Our impact factor is at the highest it has been over the last five years, at 0.56 which is so very encouraging. Although we are not solely about impact factor, we are widely considered the number 1 publication outlet for the specific overlap of technology and society. When we consider that IEEE Spectrum's impact factor is 0.22, Emerald Insight's IT & People is 0.530, Elsevier's Technology in Society is 0.271, John Hopkins University's Technology and Culture is 0.321, and Ethics and Information Technology is 0.520, it is exceptional that with merely 24–28 peer reviewed papers per year we are increasing our citations, and more. We are also not heavy on self-citations in our Magazine of our own contributors, but I would encourage more of us to cite IEEE Technology and Society Magazine articles in other outlets.

We would like to spread the word about the recent excellent results and development of IEEE T&S Magazine. We would like to do this by creating a new and enhanced user-friendly T&S Magazine front end website portal that may drive more traffic to paid elements of the Magazine, but also to contributors and reviewers, with additional multimedia content. We expect this new site will help drive increased membership in our Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) and T&S subscriptions. The new portal also will allow more interactive feedback from readers. A reminder also, that T&S Magazine is still available in print medium.

As the reputation of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine grows, we will need to recruit more reviewers, invite key contributions from major stakeholders, and enlist more full-time and associate members from regions like South America and Africa as well as key representatives from government, all while assuring gender balance.


Katina Michael would like to thank Terri Bookman, Managing Editor, and Joe Herkert, Publications Chair, for their edits and additions to this editorial and their support throughout her editorship. She would also like to acknowledge the work of Keith Miller when he was editor for his foresight and vision.

Citations: Katina Michael, "Reflecting on the Contribution of T&S Magazine to the IEEE", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 34, Issue: 4, Dec. 2015, pp. 9 - 14, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2015.2494238

Mental Health, Implantables, and Side Effects

Then I was 8 years of age my older sister who was 8 years my senior was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. As a result, my family spent quite a few years visiting hospitals and mental health facilities on a daily basis. It is painful to reflect on that period, as our whole world was rocked by this illness. My once vibrant, skilful, dynamic, energetic, extremely kind, and top-of-her-class sister was plagued by a disease process of schizophrenia that would have her attempting to take her own life on several occasions, battle with hearing voices, go into a state of catatonia for long periods of time, and suffer severe bouts of anxiety and depression.

The onset of my sister's schizophrenia was spontaneous, during what should have been the most carefree years of her life. We will never know what triggered her illness but for whatever reason that this “thing” landed in our household, we learned to come to terms with its impact. I grew up with an understanding that, in life, there are some things we can fix, and some things we cannot. There are some things we can explain, and some things we cannot. Sometimes medical science has the answers, and sometimes it does not. It does not mean I give up on the potential for a cure or therapy for various forms of mental illness, but I am more wary than most about silver bullet solutions.

In the 30 years my sister has lived with schizophrenia there have been numerous incremental innovations that have been beneficial to some sufferers. First, there have been advancements in pharmacology and in the composition of antidepressants so that they are more effective. But pharmaceutical treatments have not helped everyone, especially those sufferers who do not take their medication on a regular basis. Many persons living with depression who come on and off antidepressants without seeking medical advice are at an increased risk of suicide.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), an empirically-based psychotherapy, has also aided increasing numbers of patients to better cope with their condition. Yet CBT is not given the same media attention as the new range of dynamic neural stimulators, commonly dubbed “brain implants,” now on the market [1].

For sufferers who are diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), and for whom antidepressants and CBT simply do not work, doctors have turned to the prospect of somatic therapies. These include: electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), and deep brain stimulation (DBS). If an individual does not respond to ECT (and only fifty per cent do), they are said to have treatment-resistant depression (TRD) [2].

In plain language, ECT is when electricity is applied to the scalp generally over a treatment period of between 2-4 weeks, several sessions per week. rMTS treatment goes for 4-6 weeks, of 5 sessions per week and uses a fluctuating magnetic field from electromagnetic coil placed outside the skull sending an electrical current to the brain.

VNS and DBS are more intrusive procedures targeting specific parts of the brain [3]. In VNS, an electrode is wrapped around the left vagus nerve in the neck and stimulation occurs about every 5 minutes for about 30 seconds. The battery packs sit under the skin of the chest in both VNS and DBS, but in the DBS procedure, one or more leads are implanted in the brain, targeted through burr holes in the skull, and locked into place [2].

VNS and DBS were unavailable techniques when my sister first became ill, but I do recollect vividly the results of ECT upon her. Post the treatments, we lost her well and truly into a dark space one cannot reach she was placed on higher dosages of antidepressants for the weeks to follow, and it was apparent to us she was not only in mental anguish but clearly in physical difficulties as well. Doctors claimed clinically that she “did not respond to the treatment,” but never acknowledged that the ECT process might have caused her any short-term distress whatsoever. In fact, we were told: “There is no change in her condition. She continues to be as she was before the treatment.” That was debatable in my eyes. Even though I was just a kid, I observed it took a good three months to get my sister back to where she was before the ECT treatment. But she was only one participant among many in clinical trials, and in no way do I generalize her outcomes to be the outcomes of all ECT patients.

VNS and DBS are again very different techniques, and while VNS is used as an adjunct therapy for major depression, DBS is mainly reserved for treating Parkinson's disease and has had only limited approval for combatting intractable obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). However, what I gained from those childhood experiences is that human life is precious and experimentation can have some very adverse side effects without any direct benefits to the individual sufferer. Doctors need to be held accountable, caregivers and patients with MDD must be told clearly about the risks, and VNS patients must be monitored closely into the longer-term. I am alarmed at the lack of qualitative research being conducted across the spectrum of implantable devices in the health sector. And that is an area I intend to personally address in my own research in years to come.

To this day, I believe my sister was in no condition to consent to the treatment she received. At the time she intermittently thought I was Brooke Shields and that my siblings were other television personalities. She was delusional and completely unaware of herself. Prior to the trial my sister participated in, my parents had no real idea what ECT was, save for what they had heard anecdotally. As my sister's “guardians,” my parents did not understand how ECT would be administered and were not given the option to accompany her during the actual treatment. They were simply told that my sister would wear something on her head and have an electrical current travel all around it to hopefully “zap” her back to normal. They were not informed of what the risks might be to their beloved daughter, although they were clear it was all “experimental.” It was also emphasized, that this “electro-shock treatment” was the only other alternate route of exploration to help my sister get better. I remember their expectations being raised so high, only to be dashed after each treatment [4]. My parents had to rely on an interpreter as my father did not speak English and my mother only broken English. When one was not available my brother and sisters and I would do the translation.

In the end, when all other routes failed, my family turned to God for help. Alongside an excellent medical and health team (psychiatrist, social worker, general practitioner), and a loving home environment, it was faith that gave my family the will to go on facing everyday issues, as my sister slowly regained parts of herself to become functional again, such as her mobility and speech. As the saying goes “prayer works,” and while it might not make rational sense to believe in miracles, I remember witnessing these on at least a few occasions.

A few months ago, the cover of the February 2015 issue of IEEE Spectrum was graced with the title: “Hot-wiring the nervous system: implanted in the brain, smart-systems are defeating neurological disorders” (pp. 28) [5]. As someone who has spent the greater part of their academic career studying surveillance, risk, privacy and security, trust, and control, I have long reckoned that if we can “defeat” neurological disorders using implantable devices, then we can also “construct” and “trigger” them willingly, as well. But the point of my editorial is not to discuss the future of dynamic neural stimulators; we can debate that in another issue of T&S Magazine. Rather my point is to try to generate discussion about some of the fundamental issues surrounding the socio-ethical implications of penetrating the brain with new technologies, especially those that are remotely triggerable [6].

While the early studies for VNS with respect to MDD look promising, we need to acknowledge we are still at the very beginning of our investigations. I am personally more circumspect about published figures that simply categorize subjects post implantation using minimal labels like “non-responders,” “responders” and “achieved remission” [7]. Longitudinal data will give us a clearer picture of what is really happening. DBS, on the other hand, has been used to treat well over 75 000 persons, mostly suffering from movement disorders [2], but it is increasingly being piloted to treat OCD [8]. This is a call to the research community, to publish more widely about some of the complications, side effects, and resultant social life changes that implantees (of all kinds) are faced with post-surgery.

I am not referring here to issues related to surgical implantation (e.g., symptomatic haemorrhage after electrode placement), or even device failure or hardware-related complications (of which I have great concerns that there will be severe hacking problems in the future). Rather, I am referring to the resultant effect of “artificially constructed” dynamic stimulation on the human brain and its impact on an individual. In short, these are the unintended consequences, that range in scope from psychotic symptoms post stimulation (e.g., for epilepsy, or for patients presenting with auditory hallucinations for the first time), to modifications in sleep patterns, uncontrolled and accidental stimulation of other parts of body function [9], hypersexuality, hypomania [10], changes to heart and pulse rates, and much more.

Many implantees resort to social media to share their pre-and post-operative experiences. And while this is “off the record” self-reporting, clearly some of these discussions warrant further probing and inquiry. My hope is that the copious note-taking that occurs during pilots and clinical trials, specifically with respect to side effects, will be more accessible in the form of peer reviewed publication for doctors, engineers, government officials, standards organizations, regulatory approval bodies, and of course, the general public, so that we can learn more about the short-term and long-term effects of neural stimulation devices.

One patient, as a result of a particular procedure in a DBS pilot study described a sensation of feeling hot, flushed, fearful, and “panicky.” “He could feel palpitations in his chest, and when asked indicated he had an impending sense of doom. The feelings were coincident and continuous with the stimulator ‘on’ setting and they rapidly dissipated when switched ‘off'” [11]. Surely, this kind of evidence can be used to inform stakeholders towards what works and what does not, and the kinds of risks a patient may be exposed to if they opt-in, even if we know the same state will not be experienced by every patient given the complexity of the brain and body. In the more mature heart pacemaker industry, it is device manufacturers who tend to wish to hoard the actual physiological data being recorded by their devices [12], [13]; the brain implant industry will likely follow suit.

To conclude this editorial, at the very least, I would like to echo the sentiments of Fins et al., that deep brain stimulation is a “novel surgical procedure” that is “emerging,” and should presently be considered a last resort for people with neuropsychiatric disorders [14]. There needs to be some tempering of the hype surrounding the industry and we need to ensure that rigor is reintroduced back into trials to minimize patient risk. Exemptions like that granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the grounds of a “humanitarian device” allow implant device manufacturers to run trials that are not meaningful because the size of the trial is inappropriate, lacking commensurate statistical power [14]. The outcomes from such trials cannot and should not be generalized.

I would go one step further, calling not only for adherence to more careful research requirements during clinical trials, but also urging the medical community in general to really think about the direction we are moving. If medical policies like these [15] exist, clearly stating that “there is insufficient evidence to support a conclusion concerning the health outcomes or benefits associated with [vagus nerve stimulation] … for depression” then we must introduce major reforms to the way that consent for the procedure is gained.

Between 1935 and 1960, thanks to a rush of media (and even academic coverage), lobotomies were praised for the possibilities they gave patients and their relatives [16]. Although I am not putting lobotomies on the same level as VNS and DBS, I am concerned about placing embedded devices at the site of the most delicate organ in the human body. If we can “switch on” certain functions through the brain, we can also “switch them off.”

It is clear to anyone studying emerging technologies, that the future trajectory is composed of brain implants for medical and non-medical purposes. Soon, it won't be just people fighting MDD, or OCD, epilepsy [17], [18], Parkinson's disease [19] or Tourette's Syndrome who will be asking for brain implants, but everyday people who might wish to rid themselves of memory disorders, aggression, obesity, or even headaches. There is also the potential for a whole range of amplified brain technologies that make you feel better – diagnostic devices that pick up abnormalities in physiological patterns “just-in-time,” and under-the-skin secure identification [20]. And while the current costs for brain implants to fight mental illness are not cheap, at some $25 000 USD each (including the end-to-end surgical procedure), the prices will ultimately fall [1]. Companies like Medtronics are talking about implanting everyone with a tiny cardiac monitor [21]; it won't take long for the same to be said about a 24×7 brain monitor, and other types of daily “swallowable” implants [22].

Fears related to embedded surveillance devices of any type may be informed by cultural, ethical, social, political, religious concerns that must be considered during the patient care process [23]. Fully-fledge uberveillance, whether it is “surveillance for care” or “surveillance for control” might well be big business in the future [24], but for now academicians and funding bodies should be less interested in hype and more interested in hope.


1. S. Upson, "A difficult time for depression devices", IEEE Spectrum, pp. 14, May 2008.

2. W. K. Goodman, R. L. Alterman, "Deep brain stimulation for intractable psychiatric disorders", Annu. Rev. Med., vol. 63, pp. 511-524, 2012.

3. P. Kotagal, "Neurostimulation: Vagus nerve stimulation and beyond", Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, vol. 18, pp. 186-194, 2011.

4. V. Johansson, "Beyond blind optimism and unfounded fears: Deep brain stimulation for treatment resistant depression", Neuroethics, vol. 6, pp. 457-471, 2013.

5. T. Denison, "Building a bionic nervous system: Smart neural stimulators sense and respond to the body's fluctuations", IEEE Spectrum, pp. 28-35, Feb. 2015.

6. W. Glannon, "Stimulating brains altering minds", J. Medical Ethics, vol. 35, pp. 289-292, 2009.

7. T. Schlaepfer, J. Fins, "Deep brain stimulation and the neuroethics of responsible publishing: when one is not enough", JAMA, vol. 303, pp. 775-776, 2010.

8. B. Aouizerate, "Deep brain stimulation for OCD and major depression", Amer. J. Psychiatry, vol. 162, pp. 2192, 2005.

9. P. Moore, "Enhancing Me: The Hope and the Hype of Human Enhancement" in , Wiley, 2008.

10. C. Ch, "Hypomania with hypersexuality following bilateral anterior limb stimulation in obsessive-compulsive disorder", J. Neurosurg., vol. 112, pp. 1299-1300, 2010.

11. S. Na, "Panic and fear induced by deep brain stimulation", J. Neurol. Neurosurg Psychiatry, vol. 77, pp. 410-12, 2006.

12. J. Carvalko, "The Techno-Human Shell: A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap" in , Sunbury, 2013.

13. J. Carvalko, "Who should own in-the-body medical data in the age of ehealth?" in IEEE Technology & Society Mag., Summer, pp. 36-37, 2014.

14. J. Fins, "Misuse of the FDA's humanitarian device exemption in deep brain stimulation for obsessive-compulsive disorder", Health Aff. (Millwood), vol. 30, pp. 302-311, 2011.

15. C. Blue, "Medical Policy: Implantable Eletrical Nerve Stimulators (Vagus Autonomic Nerve and Peripheral Nerve Stimulators)", 2014, [online] Available:

16. G. J. Diefenbach, "Portrayal of lobotomy in the popular press: 1935–1960", J. History of the Neurosciences, vol. 8, pp. 60-70, 1999.

17. C. M. DeGiorgio, "Pilot study of trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) for epilepsy: A proof-of-concept trial", Epilepsia, vol. 47, pp. 1213-1215, 2006.

18. A. Schulze-Bonhage, V. Coenen, "Treatment of epilepsy: peripheral and central stimulation techniques", Nervenartz, vol. 84, pp. 517-528, 2013.

19. E. Strickland, "How brain pacemakers treat parkinson's disease", IEEE Spectrum, Apr. 2015, [online] Available:

20. K. Michael, Microchipping People, 2012.

21. E. Strickland, "Medtronic wants to implant sensors in everyone", IEEE Spectrum, Jun. 2014, [online] Available:

22. "Google director Regina E. Dugan pushing RFID microchips", 2014, [online] Available:

23. K. Michael, M. G. Michael, The Social Cultural Religious and Ethical Implications of Automatic Identification, 2004.

24. M. G. Michael, K. Michael, "Towards a state of Uberveillance", IEEE Technology & Society Mag., vol. 29, pp. 9-16, 2010.

Citation: Katina Michael, "Mental Health, Implantables, and Side Effects", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 34, Issue: 2, June 2015, pp. 5 - 17, 19 June 2015, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2015.2434471

Sousveillance: Implications for Privacy, Security, Trust, and the Law


Point of view has its foundations in film. It usually depicts a scene through the eyes of a character. Body-worn video-recording technologies now mean that a wearer can shoot film from a first-person perspective of another subject or object in his or her immediate field of view (FOV). The term sousveillance has been defined by Steve Mann to denote a recording done from a portable device such as a head-mounted display (HMD) unit in which the wearer is a participant in the activity. Some people call it inverse surveillance because it is the opposite of a camera that is wall mounted and fixed.



During the initial rollout of Google Glass, explorers realized that recording other people with an optical HMD unit was not perceived as an acceptable practice despite the fact that the recording was taking place in a public space. Google's blunder was to consider that the device, worn by 8,000 individuals, would go unnoticed, like shopping mall closed-circuit television (CCTV). Instead, what transpired was a mixed reaction by the public—some nonusers were curious and even thrilled at the possibilities claimed by the wearers of Google Glass, while some wearers were refused entry to premises, fined, verbally abused, or even physically assaulted by others in the FOV.

Some citizens and consumers have claimed that law enforcement (if approved through the use of a warrant process) and shop owners have every right to surveil a given locale, dependent on the context of the situation. Surveilling a suspect who may have committed a violent crime or using CCTV as an antitheft mechanism is now commonly perceived as acceptable, but having a camera in your line of sight record you—even incidentally—as you mind your own business can be disturbing for even the most tolerant of people.

Wearers of these prototypes, or even fully fledged commercial products like the Autographer, claim that they record everything around them as part of a need to lifelog or quantify themselves for reflection. Technology like the Narrative Clip may not capture audio or video, but even still shots are enough to reveal someone else's whereabouts, especially if they are innocently posted on Flickr, Instagram, or YouTube. Many of these photographs also have embedded location and time-stamp data. You might not have malicious intent by showing off in front of a landmark, but innocent bystanders captured in the photo could find themselves in a predicament given that the context may be entirely misleading.

Privacy, Security, and Trust

Privacy experts claim that while we once might have been concerned or felt uncomfortable with CCTV being as pervasive as it is today, we are shifting from a limited number of big brothers to ubiquitous little brothers and toward wearable computing. Fueled by social media and instant fame, recording the moment can make you famous as a citizen journalist at the expense of your neighbor.

The fallacy of security is that more cameras do not necessarily mean a safer society. In fact, statistics, depending on how they are presented, may be misleading about reductions in crime in given hotspots. The chilling effect, for instance, dictates that criminals do not just stop committing crime (e.g., selling drugs) because someone installs a bunch of cameras on a busy public route. On the contrary, crime has been shown to be redistributed or relocated to another proximate geographic location. In a study conducted in 2005 for the United Kingdom's Home Office by Martin Gill of the University of Leicester, only one area of a total of 14 studied saw a drop in the number of incidents that could be attributed to CCTV. The problem was with using the existing CCTV systems to “good effect” [1].

Questions of trust seem to be the biggest factor against wearable devices that film other people who have not granted their consent to be recorded. Let's face it: we all know people who do not like to be photographed for reasons we don't quite understand, but it is their right to say, “No, leave me alone.” Others have no trouble being recorded by someone they know, so long as they know they are being recorded prior to the record button being pushed. And still others show utter indifference, claiming that there is no longer anything personal out in the open.

Who's watching whom? Alexander Hayes takes a picture of wearable computer pioneer Steve Mann in Toronto, Canada, during the Conference (IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society 2013), while Mann uses his EyeTap device and high-definition camera to record a surveillance camera. Is this sousveillance squared? (Photo courtesy of Alexander Hayes.)

Who's watching whom? Alexander Hayes takes a picture of wearable computer pioneer Steve Mann in Toronto, Canada, during the Conference (IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society 2013), while Mann uses his EyeTap device and high-definition camera to record a surveillance camera. Is this sousveillance squared? (Photo courtesy of Alexander Hayes.)

Often, the argument is posed that anyone can watch anyone else walk down a street. These individuals fail in their assessment, however—watching someone cross the road is not the same as recording them cross the road, whether by design or by sheer coincidence. Handing out requests for deletion every time someone asks whether they've been captured on camera by another is not good enough. Allowing people to opt out “after the fact” is not consent based and violates fundamental human rights such as the control individuals might have over their own image and the freedom to go about their life as they please.

Using technology like the Narrative Clip may not capture audio or video, but even still shots are enough to reveal someone else's whereabouts, especially if they are innocently posted on Flickr, Instagram, or YouTube.

Laws, Regulations, and Policies

At the present time, laws and regulations pertaining to surveillance and listening devices, privacy, telecommunications, crimes, and even workplace relations require amendments to keep pace with advancements in HMDs and even implantable sensors [2]. The police need to be viewed as enforcing the laws that they are there to upkeep, not to don the very devices they claim to be illegal. Policies in campus settings, such as universities, also need to address the seeming imbalance in what is and is not possible. The commoditization of such devices will only lead to even greater public interest issues coming to the fore. The laws are clearly outdated, and there is controversy over how to overcome the legal implications of emerging technologies. Creating new laws for each new device will lead to an endless drafting of legislation, which is not practicable, and claiming that existing laws can respond to new problems is unrealistic, as users will seek to get around the law via loopholes in a patchwork of statutes.

Cameras provide a power imbalance. First, only a few people had mobile phones with cameras, and now they are everywhere. Then, only some people carried body-worn video recorders for extreme sports, and now, increasingly, using a GoPro, Looxcie, or Taser Axon glasses, while still in their nascent stages, has been met with some acceptance, dependent on the context (e.g., for business-centric applications that free the hands in maintenance). Photoborgs might be hitting back at all the cameras on the walls that are recording 24×7, but they do not cancel out the fact that the photoborgs themselves are doing exactly what they are claiming a fixed, wall-mounted camera is doing to them. But beating “them” at their own game has consequences.

The Überveillance Trajectory

One has to ponder: where to next? Might we be well arguing that we are nearing the point of total surveillance, as everyone begins to record everything around them for reasons of insurance protection, liability, and complaint handling “just in case,” like the in-car black box recorder unit that clears you of wrongdoing in accident? And how gullible might we become that images and video footage do not lie, even though a new breed of hackers is destined to manipulate and tamper with reality to their own ends.

Will the new frontier be surveillance of the heart and mind? The überveillance trajectory refers to the ultimate potentiality for embedded surveillance devices like swallowable pills with onboard sensors, tags, and transponder IDs placed in the subdermal layer of the skin, and even diagnostic image sensors that claim to prevent disease by watching innards or watching outward via the translucent dermal epidermal junction [3]. Just look at the spectacle and aura of the November 2014 “chipping” of Singularity University's cofounder Peter Diamandis if you still think this is conspiracy theory [4]! No folks, it's really happening. This event was followed by the chipping party in Sweden of eight individuals [5]. Let us hope this kind of thing doesn't catch on too widely because we stand to lose our freedom, and that very element that separates man from machine.


This article was adapted from Katina Michael, “Redefining Surveillance: Implications for Privacy, Security, Trust, and the Law,” December 2014, Issues Magazine,


1. BBC. (2005). CCTV systems "fail to cut crime." BBC News. [Online]. Available:

2. R. Clarke, "The regulation of point of view surveillance: A review of Australian law," IEEE Technol. Soc. Mag., vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 40-46, 2014.

3. M. G. Michael and K. Michael, Eds., Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants: Emerging Technologies (Advances in Human and Social Aspects of Technology). Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2013.

4. J. Dorrier. (2014). Summit Europe: Chip implants easy as piercings. Singularity Hub. [Online]. Available:

5. J. Wakefield. (2014). The rise of the Swedish cyborgs. BBC News: technology. [Online]. Available:

Citation: Katina Michael, "Sousveillance: Implications for Privacy, Security, Trust, and the Law", IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, Volume: 4, Issue: 2, April 2015, pp. 92 - 94, DOI: 10.1109/MCE.2015.2393006

Social and Economic Sustainability

Back in 1997, Katina would use International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates of incoming and outgoing voice and data teletraffic tables for her work in strategic network engineering. She was particularly amazed when viewing these figures in global thematic maps, as thick arrows would always flow in and out from developed nations, and yet significantly thinner arrows would be flowing from developing nations, despite the difference in population counts [1]. That image has stuck with her as a depiction of how the world is, no doubt, related to historical events. Efforts required to bring those arrows into equilibrium at a country level seem somewhat impossible, given the digital divide.

As initiatives like Project Loon attempt to grant all peoples Internet access [2], there are still many places on Earth that have limited or no connectivity whatsoever. Some of these places reject services, believing that they will bring with them even greater harm, such as deforestation or a destabilization of culture and religious practice. And yet, developed nations uphold that they are in fact educating, providing, and allowing for longer-term economic and social sustainability through their technological solutions. For example, Jason has recently returned from the eastern part of the Maharashtra state of India where the use of technology in remote villages such as Jamnya appears at first glance to be at direct odds to the subsistence way of traditional village life. However, on second glance, the benefits of technology offer endless possibilities from education to weather station assistance with crop plantings. See also, Khanjan's projects in Africa [3].

But what about long-term stability in developing nations? For example, as we strive to mainstream alternate energy sources and make them accessible in resource poor communities [4], how do we think beyond the technological and economic dimensions and ensure respect for social, political, and environmental imperatives? Computers, including the tiny but powerful ones on cell phones can be game-changers, but they will not save lives directly. They cannot be eaten by a starving population. And then, they need to be serviced and maintained. Jason, along with Katina's husband Michael, visited and taught Karen refugee students in camps and remote villages on the Thai-Burma border [5]. They quickly realized that computers work only if they are connected to electricity. Someone has to pay the bill. Computers can thereafter continue to work, if no parts go missing, and they are fully enclosed within a shelter that has windows, and are not damaged. Computers can be operated by people who have received some training and where there is some connectivity. It is hopeless to want to share files or use remote applications if bandwidth is lower than 56 kbps. For example, Martin Murillo et al.'s article in this special section emphasizes that leading humanitarians have identified data communications for remote health offices as one of the top three tools that will contribute to the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Today, as many as 80% of the world's citizens reside in areas with mobile phone coverage [6]. Increasing access to computers and cellular devices has allowed telemedicine systems to flourish in developing countries. But these devices can only really work if technologies are integrated into local communities in bottom-up socialization practices. They can work if they are embraced by locals, and harnessed for good by local companies, NGOs, elders, and other stakeholders. While the number of mHealth and telemedicine systems is growing, the benefits of these technologies are yet to be fully realized. Many mHealth ventures in resource-constrained environments suffer from “pilotitis” – an inability to expand beyond the initial pilot and ultimately become sustainable ventures. Khanjan has led the design and execution of a cash-positive telemedicine venture in central Kenya that now has seven full-time employees. His students recently conducted a study of the failure modes that plague the growth of mHealth pilots in the developing world. This study of over 50 projects in Africa and Asia uncovered a wide range of barriers including financial challenges, business structures, technological limitations, and cultural misalignments. Once again, some of the greatest challenges were related to bottom-up socialization, melding Western and indigenous knowledge, and integration of new technologies, approaches, and business models into traditional ways of life. Khanjan has captured the nuts and bolts of “how things work” and why projects fail in a series of short stories called The Kochia Chronicles: Systemic Challenges and the Foundations of Social Innovation. These narratives take readers headlong into the lives of people in a quintessential African village as they usher in an era of design, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

It is difficult not to be cynical about initiatives such as Zuckerberg's hopes to wire the world [7]. These technological initiatives sound good, but with computing also will come social implications. Not all of these implications will be positive.

But back now to getting those inflows and outflows to look more alike, as newly industrialized countries have experienced growth since the inception of the mobile phone (e.g., India), broadband (e.g., Singapore), and manufacturing machinery (e.g., Thailand). The bottom line is that to overcome the endemic failures that inhibit the sustainability and scalability of well-meaning projects, a truly systemic and participatory approach is essential. Rather than dwelling on the problems caused by, or that might result from, the digital divide, let us preoccupy ourselves with considering digital inclusion as a primary aim. Digital inclusion is not just about offering equity but about making substantial self-determined improvements to the lives and livelihoods of people in resource-poor settings. The digital divide will never be entirely bridged, but inclusion can be propelled through social innovation, concerted time, and effort supported by multi-lateral funding from local and global stakeholders who not only understand the need for change but are passionate about the human need and its interdependence with global peace and sustainability.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Investments, Communication Services, Internet, Government policies,Social factors, Social network services, Economics, Sustainable development, Environmental factors

Citation: Jason Sargent, Khanjan Mehta, Katina Michael, "Social and Economic Sustainability", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 34(1), March 2015, pp. 17 - 18