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    Update: Privacy Questions Continue Over Domestic Use of Drones

    In the last year, there has been increasing focus on this issue. Several months ago, Congress approved the FAA reauthorization bill, which includes a provision to integrate the use of aerial surveillance by drones in the United States by 2015. Read a previous post for more on the privacy and civil liberty questions, as well as deadlines for domestic use of drones.

    Now, the Associated Press takes a look at the issue of privacy related to the domestic use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The privacy and civil liberties questions are spreading, AP reports:

    Predictions that multitudes of unmanned aircraft could be flying here within a decade are raising the specter of a “surveillance society” in which no home or backyard would be off limits to prying eyes overhead. Law enforcement, oil companies, farmers, real estate agents and many others have seen the technology that was pioneered on battlefields, and they are eager to put it to use.

    It’s not just talk: The government is in the early stages of devising rules for the unmanned aircraft. […]

    Public worries about drones began mostly on the political margins, but there are signs that they’re going mainstream.

    Jeff Landry, a freshman Republican congressman from Louisiana’s coastal bayou country, says constituents have stopped him while shopping at Walmart to talk about their concerns. […]

    Fear that some drones may be armed, for example, has been fueled in part by a county sheriff’s office in Texas that used a homeland security grant to buy a $300,000, 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone for its SWAT team. The drone can be equipped with a 40mm grenade launcher and a 12-gauge shotgun.

    Randy McDaniel, chief deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, told The Associated Press earlier this year his office had no plans to arm the drone, but he left open the possibility the agency might decide to adapt the drone to fire tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. […]

    When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, suggested during an interview on Washington radio station WTOP last month that drones be used by police since they’ve done such a good job on foreign battlefields, the political backlash was swift. NetRightDaily complained: “This seems like something a fascist would do. … McDonnell isn’t pro-Big Government, he is pro-HUGE Government.” […]

    There’s concern as well among liberal civil liberties advocates that government and private-sector drones will be used to gather information on Americans without their knowledge. Giving drones greater access to U.S. skies moves the nation closer to “a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities,” the American Civil Liberties Union declared in a report last December.

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