Sunday, March 10, 2013

Drones and Limits

Asking legitimate questions

Back in June of 2012 I wondered where we in the United States would draw the lines, posting a blog entry called Domestic Drones. A few days ago, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) pressed the White House and the Justice Department to address a single (fairly extreme) question, and an important one, but I believe that it would be helpful to have a longer public discussion with additional questions.

Where is it appropriate to use unmanned remote-controlled or autonomous flying surveillance equipment (drones) in support of national interests? Only overseas? In limited cases over U.S. soil? In unlimited cases? Are drones only acceptable for issues of national security, or are they appropriate for use by state or local law enforcement? Does a drone flying over private property, capturing still or video images, constitute an invasion of personal privacy? Does it make a difference how high or low they fly, or how high the resolution of their images?

Do the laws and assurances that govern police or federal agent movements apply to drones? Do we need to consider whether a traffic monitoring drone might inadvertently distribute images of people's movements to and from mental or reproductive health care facilities, battered women's shelters, or otherwise stumble over matters of accepted personal privacy?

There are many questions that would be valuable to address if we want to thoughtfully envision a future with drones, and that's without even asking extreme (but crucial) questions such as, "Is it ever appropriate for domestic drones to be armed?"

We need a national conversation on drones and their appropriate limits. How should we go about having that conversation? Please post a comment with your thoughts.

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