Friday, June 15, 2012

Domestic Drones

Surveillance Society?

A surveillance society is one where surveillance technology is very widely used to monitor what people do. The rapid increase in surveillance cameras in US cities and much of the rest of the western world has probably helped to solve many crimes, and may (or may not) deter criminals. But for some of us, it feels a little creepy to be watched so much of the time.

When aerial drones became a visible part of the way the US waged war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan), I started to wonder about the possibility of law enforcement interest in the use of small surveillance drones within the US. By May of this year, it was no longer an idle thought and academic exercise. Reports began to appear about law enforcement interest and about practical trials.

I find this to be a disturbing direction, and a potential invasion of privacy. I'm in agreement with Senator Rand Paul (R, Kentucky) – at least on this particular topic. His opinion piece published in CNN makes the point that a mini drone capturing photographic or video content should require a warrant.

Recently the Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken notice. They are working to ban law enforcement use of drone surveillance, or to at least require "robust privacy safeguards that will protect citizens from unwanted and unconstitutional surveillance."

Should law enforcement move in the direction of drone use within the United States, and if so, what should the limits be? Can your local police department use drones to try to curb speeding and illegal parking, or are drones only appropriate for much more serious crime? In either case, what are the deployment implications, and what are the privacy safeguards for citizens?

Please leave a comment and tell us what you think. 


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