The Washington Post has an interesting story on a new way people are being tracked and judged — via an ankle bracelet that can sniff out alcohol. Forty-six states use the anklets — about 15,000 are currently deployed.
Twenty-four hours a day, whether she’s jogging, sleeping or managing a pool hall, Williams wears a high-tech sensor on her ankle that can detect the faintest whiff of alcohol in her perspiration. If she sneaks a drink, the device will know it — and so will a judge, who could put her behind bars for violating a court order to avoid alcoholic beverages.
At $12 a day, the anklet is a bargain, compared with $150 a day to house a minor offender such as Williams in the Loudoun County jail, and far less than the $24,332 a year it costs Virginia to keep a felon in state prison. […]
But the gadget has also stirred “Big Brother” jitters as technological advances make it easier for governments and corporations to keep tabs on people. While law enforcement has been using satellite-based GPS to track offenders’ whereabouts for some time, privacy advocates say the alcohol-monitoring device — known as Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM — has taken law enforcement into the realm of continuously and remotely monitoring people’s physical condition. […]
Mark Monmonier, a professor at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University who has written about sophisticated mapping techniques and privacy, said advances in microprocessors and other technology will almost certainly lead to more intrusive monitoring and potential abuses.
“What is really alarming people is the possible problems, and the problem’s not just Big Brother,” Monmonier said. “It’s a lot of Little Brothers.”