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Spies in the Sky: The Big Brother Drones Policing America
Like the book, 1984, and many B-type sci-fi movies, the rise of drones and big brother are here. We are not talking of military drones, like the Predator, but smaller and unarmed ones that many police departments claim they need to fight criminals. These non-military drones can do all sorts of things, like:
- Record video
- Create heat images
- Track anyone including criminals
- Find missing people
- Track illegals or protesters
- Hover for surveillance
- Find lost people
- Locate bombs
But the spy in the sky is making many Americans nervous and their right of privacy, hmm, well, that is vanishing. Between police drones and traffic cameras, going out in public loses any privacy. There is a large drone market out there, almost $90 billion is estimated in the next decade.
But the rise of the drones for domestic use right now has no rules or laws about how police can use them. Abuse is just around the corner especially search and seizure searches. States like Arizona and Montana require a search warrant before collecting evidence with a drone. Virginia has outlawed them for now. Idaho allows police their "discretion" in using drones on suspected activities-well, we know where this will go.
Drones can be very cost effective in fighting crime but the potential for police abuse may be just too much. Civilian drones are much smaller and resemble toys, run on batteries and fly short distances and are armed with sensors and cameras. They weigh a mere 4-5 pounds. Seattle police bought several only to return them once the public found out and protested. Oakland wanted to buy some also, but the public opposition was so much, the drone was not bought.
Drones do monitor the US-Mexico border and are very effective, but these are military drones that can stay aloft for over a day. What about targeting a US citizen using a drone, right now, the police need a warrant in some places. What if the US citizen is a terrorist? Should a drone be used to take him out? The Department of Homeland Security thinks so because the US citizen has lost all benefits due to his terrorist affiliation. But some members in Congress take issue with this. Should evidence collected by a drone of such a US citizen in the US be used to prosecute without a warrant?
Lots of good questions with only murky answers.