Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Law Enforcement Sky-Spy Drones Are Coming

See update and second addendum from NYT on 2/2012 below]

DATA DRIVEN VIEW POINT - Unmanned surveillance drones for domestic spying may soon to be common practice by US law enforcement.  Tracking protesters or mapping a persons associations with other people or entities will be a snap.  Also, keep in mind that drones can be fitted with equipment capable of observing our movements within our own homes.  The ACLU published an article about this recently that is worth reading.   An excerpt follows.  The time for public discussions and debate is now.  Once these drones are up they may never come back down.
From the ACLU on Dec 15, 2011:

New Eyes in the Sky: Protecting Privacy from Domestic Drone Surveillance

 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – UAV’s or “drones” as they are called – are on the way.  

Just this week the Los Angeles Timesreported that Customs and Border Patrol agency has been lending their Predator drones to law enforcement agencies for domestic operations. And their use is only going to spread.
The question is, will drones become pervasive spying tools that change the nature of American life? Will we be able to walk out of our front door without wondering at all times whether some eye in the sky might be watching every move we make?
Today we’re releasing a report on drones, “Protecting Privacy From Aerial Surveillance: Recommendations for Government Use of Drone Aircraft.” In the report, we discuss the current drone landscape (technology and use), talk about the privacy issues, and conclude with recommendations for protections we believe must be put in place to ensure they don’t destroy our privacy.
The fact is, all the pieces appear to be lining up for the eventual introduction of routine aerial surveillance in American life. Those pieces include:
  • Pent-up demand by police departments for the technology, which has been restrained so far by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over safety concerns.
  • The FAA, which has been largely holding back drone deployment, is under political and industry pressure to open the floodgates and make it much easier for police departments to deploy these aircraft.
  • The technology, which has been advancing by leaps and bounds, and – like most technology these days – will almost certainly continue to get cheaper and more powerful.
  • Our privacy laws, which do not currently provide sufficient protection from this technology.


The Drone Next Door: New FAA Rules Will Increase UAVs In National Airspace

A new set of laws will require the FAA to ease up on the rules governing domestic drone use — and to find a way to integrate them into national airspace alongside regular aircraft.

Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bill by a vote of 75-20 that had been fought over in Congress for several years, which appropriates $63.4 billion for the FAA, and, among other things, requires the FAA to loosen restrictions on domestic drone use by September, 2015.

Currently, the FAA has a strict process of licensing agencies to operate Unmanned Aerial Vehicles within the U.S., and limits where they can be flown for safety reasons. Primarily, the unarmed UAVs are being used by some law enforcement agencies for surveillance and emergency situations.

The FAA was already planning to issue new, looser standards for issuing the licenses in the next couple of months, but the bill sets a hard deadline for those rules to be finished within 90 days.

But the legislation also requires the FAA to expand the list of who can operate the drones, and where and when they can be flown. “A government public safety agency” will be able to operate drones of a certain size as long as certain safety conditions are met. And the FAA is now required “to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”

The ACLU, which has recently sued the government for records on predator drone strikes targeting U.S. citizens overseas, is wary of the bill’s provisions that will allow the UAVs to have more access to national airspace.

New York Time

February 20, 2012

Drones in Afghanistan, Drones in … Akron?
Now that American civilians have wide latitude to use drone aircraft, the potential is dizzying: shooting Hollywood films, crop dusting, monitoring weather, spying on neighbors, photographing celebrities.

Should the government restrict where drones can fly and film, to protect people’s privacy? Or should we all assume that if we are outdoors or near a window, we have no privacy?READ THE DISCUSSION »

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