<p></p> <p>Cutting-edge technologies can transform the societies that use them. But the adoption of new technologies often outpaces legislation and safety research, creating awkward transitional periods when devices can be put to questionable uses.</p> <p>Just as earlier generations fretted over radiation threats from microwaves and the morality of atomic weapons, we now find ourselves faced with technologies that have equally profound upsides and downsides. Here is a look at some pervasive technologies that are stirring the pot:</p> <p></p>

<strong>In-car technology</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Technology is everywhere, including your car — from built-in Internet jacks to iPad docks attached to seat headrests. Not surprisingly, safety experts worry that the distractions could be dangerous. Perhaps the most controversial, however, is Ford's latest enhancement of its popular voice-activated SYNC in-car communications system. The new driver interface called <a alt="((CONLINK|176|MyFord%20Touch))" href="">MyFord Touch</a> is entirely voice-controlled, including entertainment — AM/FM and satellite radio, HD, CD, MP3 — climate control, phone and navigation.</p> <p>MyFord Touch also uses the power of a <a alt="((CONLINK|822|smartphone))" href="">smartphone</a> to access and control other applications. Users have the ability to listen to streaming music from online music services, stay in touch with the news and check out the latest Twitter messages — all without taking their hands off the wheel.</p> <p>Because SYNC technology does away with fumbling for the phone and allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road, Ford believes it can help make highways safer. But not everyone agrees: "These devices do not increase safety," Robert Sinclair Jr., AAA New York's manager of media relations, told TechNewsDaily. "The biggest distraction by far is the cognitive. [Drivers] don't focus on the road, their mind is distracted. Driving in and of itself is multitasking."</p> <p></p>

<strong>Instant replay in baseball</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>It began in limited during last year's Major League Baseball playoffs, but instant replay is now routinely used to help umpires make the right call. However, the new addition has sparked much controversy: "You're taking everything that's great out of baseball — the human element," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff recently told the Los Angeles Times.</p> <p>Others are upset that instant-replay can only be viewed when a home run is at stake — this means calls involving base running or foul balls aren't privy to the technology. The league has called a meeting for Dec. 3, 2010, to discuss player-umpire relationships and the potential for instant-replay expansion next year.</p> <p>Baseball is not the only sport that has been under scrutiny for instant-replay — it's also been in the spotlight in the National Football League and FIFA soccer.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Airport body scanners</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been installing new full-body scanners at airports nationwide to increase check-in security, but these units have created quite the stir since they debuted earlier this year. In fact, a public interest group recently <a alt="((CONLINK|900|filed%20a%20lawsuit%20against%20the%20TSA%20demanding%20the%20suspension%20of%20the%20device))" href="">filed a lawsuit against the TSA demanding the suspension of the device</a> on health safety grounds.</p> <p>Although the TSA says the radiation dosage from active millimeter-wave systems is small, Dr. David Brenner, head of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, says the scalp receives 20 times the average dose that is typically quoted by the industry.</p> <p>"There is no good reason why [TSA] scans the head and neck, especially since you can't hide explosives there," Brenner said during the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus earlier this year.</p> <p>Some believe the accuracy of these systems is also debatable, considering images cannot detect explosives hidden in body cavities. The lawsuit also alleges that the photos taken of the body violate religious laws about modesty.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Removing the encryption, or digital rights management (DRM), code from music or movie files is a federal offense in the United States. However, more than two-thirds of consumers believe that once they purchase media content — from DVDs to video games — it should be theirs to copy or share with whomever they want, according to a Reuters survey of 27,000 respondents across 52 countries.</p> <p>Reinforcing DRM, which aims to stop the practice of piracy, hasn't always been easy, and the topic has remained controversial over the years. Although copyright holders say DRM is needed to prevent unauthorized copying of their work, opponents say the technology limits the use of material in ways that are beyond the scope of existing copyright laws.</p> <p></p>

<strong>File-sharing programs</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Similar to piracy, the allure of tapping into file-sharing programs is simple: The access to reproduced copyrighted material is free, even if it infringes on the owners' rights. The popularity of these file sharing or peer-to-peer networks is backed by the assumption that they are anonymous just because they are decentralized. But that's not true.</p> <p>"Peer-to-peer network users can be tracked, and their IP addresses, bandwidth capabilities and the kind of content they share is completely identifiable," Sergei Shevchenko, senior <a href="">malware</a> analyst for PC Tools, told TechNewsDaily. "If the shared content is unknowingly bundled with malware, the tracked users and their PCs can be turned into the malware distribution hubs."</p> <p>Therefore, this makes the practice extremely dangerous for most computer users, especially without the right protection measures in place.</p> <p></p>

<strong>GPS tracking devices</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p><a href="">GPS systems</a> can be your best friend when navigating where to go, but what if others were to tap into your location data without your knowledge? There have been reported cases of people hiding GPS devices in the cars of people they know — from children to spouses — to keep track of their whereabouts. Software from AccuTracking can also be downloaded to a cell phone to track someone. Geo-location is a cutting-edge tool that can be helpful in many ways, but how it can be used — and abused — remains a topic for debate.</p> <p>Most recently, the technology was at the center of a privacy rights case that involved the FBI putting a tracking device in a 20-year-old Arab-American college student’s car. The surveillance monitor — which was hidden for three months — was reportedly put there due to the student's strong family ties to the Middle East. However, some people have called the move an act of racial profiling. On the other hand, however, many states are using GPS to track parolees and domestic abuse violators. According to the Colorado Electronic Monitoring Resource Center, more than 5,000 GPS-enabled bracelets are in use across the country to make sure restraining orders are followed.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Direct-to-consumer genetic testing</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Direct-to-consumer test kits have become increasingly popular since they first hit the market several years ago, encouraging the curious to find out which disease susceptibilities could be lurking deep within their genetic makeup. Costing a few hundred dollars each, these mail-in kits require saliva or a swab from the inner cheek. However, there has been much debate over whether access to the results is beneficial or if it can cause unnecessary emotional and mental distress — and if the results are even accurate.</p> <p>Many test takers don't realize that the results are not a complete read of their genetic makeup. The results also don't factor in lifestyle choices. For example, someone could be at low risk for lung cancer but if they smoke two packs a day, their chances of getting the disease increases. Although receiving the results can be empowering if they lead to actions such as changing diet and exercise, other conditions are not treatable or preventable with current medical technology — and finding out about them through a genetic testing kit could potentially lead to depression, various experts say.</p>

Seven Modern-Day Technologies Sparking Controversy