Government’s New Molecular Scanning Devices Attack Privacy Rights

Target: United States Department of Homeland Security

Goal: Develop an extensive set of rules limiting the use of molecular scanning devices in order to protect privacy rights of US citizens.

The United States Department of Homeland Security has partnered with Genia Photonics and In-Q-Tel to implement new security technology throughout the country’s airports and border crossings. Known as the Picosecond Programmable Laser, this new invention has the capability to read people at the molecular level and is said to be implemented in public areas as soon as 2013. As In-Q-Tel explains, the scanner can “penetrate clothing and many other organic materials and offers spectroscopic information.” In other words, the device can scan and identify every molecule on a person, from the egg and bacon sandwich one had for breakfast to the explosives a potential terrorist is trying to hide and even the adrenaline coursing through a body. Although such an invention can significantly aid security measures, its infringement on personal privacy is a cause for concern.

According to In-Q-Tel the uniqueness of Genia Photonics’ technology is the compact size of the laser, which makes it easily transportable, unlike other similar devices. As such, the invention can be deployed in a myriad of public places without citizen knowledge. Being searched without notification threatens personal privacy, especially at such an intimate level. Furthermore, the breadth of the devices’ search capacity raises a red flag. Because the machine can scan from 50 meters (164 ft.) out, citizens will have no idea of the moment they are being examined. People have the right to know when they are being searched.

The functioning of the new technology also raises certain health questions. As explained by In-Q-Tel, the device essentially blasts targets with lasers that vibrate the molecules of the body, which are then read by the machines’ computers, indicating the substances people have been exposed too. Although the entire process of scanning and downloading information takes picoseconds (one-trillionth of a second); one has to ask the consequences of vibrating bodily molecules. What actually happens to the body when every molecule is attacked?

Due to the underlying privacy and health consequences of the Picosecond Programmable Laser, the Department of Homeland Security must instill a rigorous set of rules on the device’s use, as well as provide location transparency. Citizens should be made aware of when the lasers are vibrating every molecule in their body.


Dear United States Department of Homeland Security,

The Picosecond Programmable Laser, although strategic for airport and border security, infringes on privacy and health rights, and must be regulated before its scheduled release in 2013.

In-Q-Tel, your partnering agency in this affair, explains how the new technology can “penetrate clothing and many other organic materials” in order to offer spectroscopic information, i.e. specific details on the molecular makeup of a target. And due to the unique compactness of the device, it can be deployed and hidden in a variety of public arenas. Having every molecule of your body scanned and analyzed without your knowledge is a serious threat to self-privacy.

Furthermore, the device works by blasting targets with lasers that vibrate bodily molecules, which are then read and analyzed by the machines computer. What sort of health complications can occur when every aspect of the body is tampered with?

In order to protect privacy rights and address health concerns, this agency must implement a strict set of regulations concerning the use of the Picosecond Programmable Laser, as well as offer location transparency. People should know where, when and why the device is being used and the extent of its capabilities.


[Your Name Here]

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