US Sky Filled with Clouds, Dust and Now Drones; Individual Privacy Takes a Beating

February 11, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Law enforcement has been an issue of prime concern in the US and the latest step seems to be the permission granted for drones to fly over almost all of the 81 major cities. The FAA has just released an updated version of the drone application list, as requested under a Freedom of Information Act action from the EFF.

The technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, interest in deploying drones among police departments is increasing, and privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values.

It looks like someone is planning an eventual introduction of routine aerial surveillance in American life, which is an unfamiliar development that would profoundly change the character of public life in the United States.

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Many humanitarian associations have already put forward some conditions that will aid the use of drones without breaching the privacy of American individuals. First of all, they insist that drones should be deployed by law enforcement only with a warrant, in an emergency, or when there are specific grounds to believe that the drone will collect evidence relating to a specific criminal act.

They also demand that the photos should be retained only when there is reasonable suspicion that they contain evidence of a crime or are relevant to an ongoing investigation or trial. Usage policy on domestic drones should be decided by the public’s representatives, not by police departments, and the policies should be clear, written, and open to the public.

Whatever the conditions are, they all look sane and hopefully the authorities will take their time to look into it.

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