Over the course of the past year or so, many private citizens and politicians have voiced concern over the expanding drone industry. They are saying that the industry is moving too quickly and is not taking into consideration the privacy issues that will be a natural consequence of aircraft capable of spying on the activities of people on the ground.
So, who’s listening to these concerns and heeding these warnings? Not the U.S. government, that’s for sure. The nation appears to be plunging ahead with the development and planned activities for these drones, despite the fact that virtually no solid privacy rules have been put into place. It looks like drone technology is destined to be another in a long series of ways to spy on people without probable cause of wrongdoing and without warrants.
The government recently announced that six states have been selected to develop test sites for drones – Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia – in order to provide diverse climates, geography and air traffic environments.
The Federal Aviation Administration is working to develop operational guidelines for the commercial use of drones by the end of 2015, projecting that approximately 7,500 of them could be aloft in American skies within five years of gaining widespread access to American airspace.
The American Civil Liberties Union is not pleased with the expansion of the drone industry, especially before privacy practices are put into place. An ACLU spokesperson was quoted as saying that this activity moves the nation closer to “a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.”
Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky said, “I just don’t like the concept of drones flying over barbeques in New York to see whether you have a Big Gulp in your backyard or whether you are separating out your recyclables according to the city mandates.”
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta responded by saying that test sites must have a written plan for data use and retention, and will be required to conduct an annual review of privacy practices that involves public comment.
Sounds to me like their “privacy practices” have no teeth whatsoever.
How to you feel about drones flying overhead and watching what you do? Do you feel that drones represent a new and important form of technology, or will they be used in ways that will violate our constitutional rights? Please chime in with your thoughts on this important matter.