Drones: Public Safety vs. Privacy

By Alden L. Benton

Are unmanned drones coming to the sky over your backyard?

According to an article in the November 27 edition of the Los Angeles Times, local law enforcement and private companies may soon be allowed to fly unmanned, remotely piloted vehicles (RPV) in United States airspace.  (Read full article here.)

These are not the military RPVs used to ferret out and kill terrorists around the globe.  In fact, according to the Times article, there are many practical uses for these small aircraft such as police surveillance, crop dusting, monitoring security of pipelines and electrical transmission lines, and wildfire detection.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is addressing the question of how to safely use RPVs in the United States.  The FAA, according to the Times, “plans to propose new rules for the use of small drones in January, a first step toward integrating robotic aircraft into the nation’s skyways.”

The FAA must ensure that these unmanned vehicles are safe to fly in the crowded skies of the United States.  They must also address issues of safety and liability when these vehicles fail.  This is their mission.

However, before the FAA allows these aircraft to fly, they must address privacy issues as well.

“Other concerns include privacy — imagine a camera-equipped drone buzzing above your backyard pool party…,” according to the Times.

“It’s important that the FAA is scrutinizing the safety of the technology, but they should also make sure Americans’ privacy is maintained,” said Catherine Crump, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney.  “Having cheap, portable, flying surveillance machines may have a tremendous benefit for law enforcement, but will it respect Americans’ privacy?”

The United States is fast becoming the land of the watched, as opposed to the land of the free. 

Cameras watch us at the supermarket.  Malls, and who knows who else, are tracking you with your cell phone.  There are cameras watching you in public parks.  There are cameras watching to see if you roll through a yellow light.

Every time you get on the internet, the ubiquitous cookie tracks and remembers you.  I you have On Star, they track you and your driving habits.  We are already under constant surveillance from helicopter patrols.

Do we need to be watched 24 hours a day?  I think not.  Just because we have the technology doesn’t necessarily mean we have to use it

Surveillance in the name of security is just one more expansion of government at the expense of personal freedom.  Please write to the FAA and demand that they protect our privacy when they issue new rules regarding the use of unmanned drones in the United States.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Privacy is an essential element of liberty we must fight to keep.


©2011 Alden L Benton/Independence Creek Enterprises
If you want to reuse this material, please follow this link to obtain copyright permission:  aldenbenton.icopyright.com

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