Aug 052011
 
 August 5, 2011  Featured News, Surveillance

Ryan Calo is guest-blogging on Concurring Opinions this month and starts off with a bang:

Drones are coming to a city near you. On one view, they will further compromise our dwindling privacy.  This post explores whether they might instead drag privacy law into the twenty-first century.  Thanks to Danielle Citron for the charitable introduction and to everyone at Concurring Opinions for inviting me to guest blog this month.

The military makes widespread use of drones.  The Air Force reported that by March of this year, drones had surpassed a million combat hours. Drones are also used within the United States.  They patrol both our northern and southern border and have been used by the police in at least three counties.  Kashmir Hill at Forbes.com and others have reported the use of smaller drones by News Corp. (which will do wonders, I’m sure, for their existing image).

There is every reason to believe that the domestic use of drones is on the rise.  They represent a cheap and efficient alternative to helicopters, planes, even the installation of city-wide camera networks.  The greatest impediment to their deployment is the Federal Aviation Administration ban on the technology absent a waiver.  Senators Schumer (D-NY) and Wyden (D-OR) and others appear to be gaining traction in their efforts to relax this policy.  The state of Oklahoma recently petitioned the FAA for a blanket waiver for the public and private use of drones in an eighty-mile corridor the state has set aside for this purpose.

Although the media mostly covers drones for their capacity to carry out assassinations, their greatest use by far is surveillance.  Industrial-grade drones can fly for miles searching for objects of interest or hover at a particular location and report any movement.  Not only can they record high-resolution video, but some drones come equipped with thermal-imaging and other sensors capable of seeing what people cannot.  There have even been reports of a drone capable of impersonating a cell tower so as to intercept phone conversations.

Read more on Concurring Opinions.

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