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Surveillance 2: Is nothing sacred?

Does the future belong to an intelligent loo that tells you when to go on a diet?

Even undercover you may be out in the open. Think you're safe from surveillance when you get off the road and hole up in your home or office? Not so fast. A federal appeals court has ruled that police in California can obtain a warrant to aim thermal-imaging systems at private homes in the hope of sniffing out drug labs and clandestine indoor marijuana-growing operations.

Of course, technology is progressing quickly. Existing systems can identify which rooms in a home or office contain people -- and within a few years, authorities will essentially be able to see through walls and tell what people in those rooms are doing.

Scientists in the advanced R&D labs at Tokyo's Matsushita Electric Industrial have even developed a load of gadgets for the company's "digital home of the future". A refrigerator that can order milk when you're running low, anyone? How about gas appliances that report their monthly usage to the utility company automatically, without requiring a visit from the meter reader. But this tops it all: a Health Monitoring Toilet System that measures the user's weight, body fat and uric sugar levels and can send the results to an Internet service for health and diet advice.

Get over your assumption that you have a private life. If you're in a public place, then it's almost certain you'll be under surveillance most of the time.

Take me to the Surveillance 2 ZDNet News special.