Viewpoint: ‘Good Technology’ Dr. Larry Burriss

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By Dr. Larry Burriss

We’ve talked quite a bit here about the dangers inherent in technology, the Internet and computers. Loss of privacy, stolen data and fake news.
But last week I heard about an incident in another state in which all of these problems and concerned turned out to be of benefit to at least one person. It’s a cautionary tale about just what all of these technological marvels can, and can’t do to and for us.


It seems a homeowner filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration about a private pilot who buzzed his home at less than 300 feet. The concerned citizen even had video of the low-flying red-and-white aircraft landing at a local airport, making identification all but certain.
The FAA was able to find the supposedly offending pilot who was now facing a loss of license and perhaps loss of job for flying dangerously over a home and operating an aircraft in a careless and reckless manner.

Enter new, and old, technology.
First, the aircraft in question was equipped with new technology that automatically tracks, and transmits, multiple aircraft performance and flight data.
Because these reports are readily available on the Internet, some people have complained about the possibility of their movements being tracked by some not-so-nice people.
But by superimposing the flight data on relatively new Google mapping technology, the accused pilot was able to show he had indeed flown over the relevant house, but at more than 700 feet and some three hours after the video of a different, and offending aircraft. Plus, the data showed the pilot had never landed at the airport in question.
And what about the video of the actually offending red-and-white aircraft? Well, careful examination of the pictures showed the low-flying plane was a two-seater and the non-offending plane had a single-seat.
It’s also interesting that for some reason the F-A-A investigator, who was subsequently reassigned, chose to ignore all of the relevant data in an attempt to “get” the innocent pilot. And he might have succeeded, except for all of the new, often demeaned technology.
We’ve often said here it’s not the technology, it’s the people who use it are the problem. But every once in a while, the good guys win one.
I’m Larry Burriss.

Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)