Big Brother On Campus?

Researchers at Northeastern University overstepped their experimental boundaries, or they would have had their project taken place in the United States. Over the past six months, the University has been collecting data regarding the movement of cell phone users in relation to their homes. What they found was that most did not wander outside a radius of 20 miles from their home within the study period, surprising, but ultimately not the focus of this experiment. Northeastern is receiving criticism now for their Big Brother behavior and many point out that an experiment similar to this would never be allowed in the US. Despite the strict policies followed to keep the anonymity of their subjects, Institutional Review Boards would most likely not let such action pass without severely amending the experiment.
On the other side, scientists focused on discovering more about the habits, patterns and practices of humans argue their case for continuing such practices. According to this group, tracking humans by way of cell phones, or other devices, has nothing to do with invading privacy and everything to do with improving the quality of life as we know it. Researchers are attesting to the positive aspects of such a project that would allow for predicting and planning for traffic patterns as well as other problems arising from travel including the spread of contagious diseases. The battle of privacy versus advancement will continue to be fought so long as there are new frontiers and this particular one will have people torn over which side is more appropriate.


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