Look out! 'Smart dust' might be watching you soon

We thought smart dust was a mere fantasy of science fiction and spycraft, but now HP says it will start installing the miniature eavesdropping devices within two years. What will they monitor? Well, everything, according to HP. The company plans to distribute a trillion of these sensors far and wide in the next few years, functioning as the "Central Nervous System for the Earth."

They're hardly dust. The first devices will be installed in a package about the size of a paperback book. Inside each will be sensors, computer processors, plenty of battery power and wireless communication to send the data out. They'll start innocently enough, sniffing the air for toxins, detecting earthquakes, predicting traffic patterns, and evaluating energy needs.

We're starting to get a really bad feeling about this. Our question: As this "smart dust" actually gets down to the size of particles of dust, where will it be hiding? This would be the perfect technology to spy on everyone on the planet. It might be convenient to have the ability to monitor everything that's going on here on Earth, but that power would be even more useful for those with malevolent purposes.

First HP buys Palm, and now it's going all megalomaniacal on us? Don't watch me, big bro!