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Domestic Use of Aerial Drones By Law Enforcement 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the eye-in-the-sky dept.
PatPending writes "Aerial drones are now used by the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Mesa County Sheriff's Office, Colorado; the Miami-Dade County, Florida, Police Department; and the Department of Homeland Security. But what about privacy concerns? 'Drones raise the prospect of much more pervasive surveillance,' said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. 'We are not against them, absolutely. They can be a valuable tool in certain kinds of operations. But what we don't want to see is their pervasive use to watch over the American people.'"
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Domestic Use of Aerial Drones By Law Enforcement

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  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:07AM (#34980086)
    But its ok for Google?
    • by flyneye (84093) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:10AM (#34980104) Homepage

      Just build a small EMP generator. You may fry tech for blocks around but that drone will drop like a fly sprayed w/ RAID.

      • by doti (966971)

        It will be outlawed, if it's not already.

        • if you outlaw tac nukes, only criminals will have....

          Ok, it gets silly at a certain level.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            "if you outlaw tac nukes, only GOVERNMENT will have...."

            Fixed that for you.

          • That's actually not entirely silly. Look at Iran and North Korea and other unstable nations like that. If all nukes (or at least tactical nukes) were outlawed, nations would still try to make them. So yes, only the outlaws would have tactical nukes.
      • by Algorithmnast (1105517) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:33AM (#34980224)

        Hopefully the parent will get modded up for humor. But if taken seriously, it's still a good segue into useful discussion.

        It'd be pretty easy to land in jail for that, as well. The "fried tech" would establish a radius, and therefore a center. And while you can try to do a covert op and put it in a box that's remote-controlled (blah, blah, blah, etc, etc, etc), it's amazing how good government forensics can get when you've actually annoyed the government.

        It would seem to be one way to get labeled with the terrier-ist word...

        Plus - have you considered what such a stunt would do for our individual "rights"? The Supreme Court has already declared that when you're in public spaces (including outside a building) you have no expectation of not being recorded both visually and audibly.

        • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:00AM (#34980438)

          And yet that never seems to stop the police from charging people with all sorts of things when you record THEM doing their jobs outside. Especially when they do their job repeatedly, with great force.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          it's amazing how good government forensics can get when you've actually annoyed the government.

          "Annoyed"? You set off an EMP that fries a couple of blocks or more worth of everything electronic, and you're gonna find yourself classed as an extremely important terrorism target.

          Something like that will launch a full-court press of lettered agencies -- I think that's the kind of thing that would send them all ape-shit.

          That's like Bond-villain kind of stuff if you do it in a major city.

          • I equate governmental anger to the government causing a body count.

            And it's an EMP that's local, then it's unlikely to frighten the government...

            So yeah, annoyance.

            While parts of the government may get violently angry about such a thing, the gov as a whole probably wouldn't be violently angry. If I get bitten by a mosquito, then the cells in the affected area are normally inflamed, but I as a person only want to squash the one mosquito.

            And there's no real (long-lasting, or wide-spread) anger over

            • by gstoddart (321705)

              While parts of the government may get violently angry about such a thing, the gov as a whole probably wouldn't be violently angry.

              I think if you set off an EMP in a major city, the citizenry would reach a level of anger and fear that would more or less give the government carte-blanche to put you into a deep, dark hole.

              Do this in someplace like New York, and you're going to see some long-lasting, wide-spread anger over this. I suspect such a thing would likely cost lives if you were near a hospital or some

              • It appears to me (who is ignorant of you) that you're getting hung up on my use of a single word.

                Fine, replace "annoyed" with whatever word you think appropriate, and let's get on with meaningful discussion.

                Really, just 'cause we're on Slashdot doesn't have to remove that as a possibility, right?

                • by gstoddart (321705)

                  It appears to me (who is ignorant of you) that you're getting hung up on my use of a single word.

                  Possibly ... it just seemed somewhat you might have been downplaying the magnitude of the response such a thing would garner.

                  Really, just 'cause we're on Slashdot doesn't have to remove that as a possibility, right?

                  Not yet, I hope. Though it gets worse every year. ;-)

                  Cheers

            • by Peeteriz (821290)

              I don't know about the government, but I'd bet that your neighbours would be more angry than annoyed, and you'd need to ask for government police intervention to prevent physical 'annoyance' to your face.

        • by I8TheWorm (645702) *

          I've been waiting for someone to develop directional EMP for some time, just so I can shut down cars with eleventyhundred subwoofers assuming everyone within half a mile radius wants to hear what they have to play.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        Why go to all the trouble of EMP? Just get a spotlight to shine on the drone as it passes by your home. I'm sure you can set up some sort of video tracking to automatically pinpoint the drone with a pin light.

  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:08AM (#34980092) Homepage

    A budget shortfall as high as $25 billion is projected as lawmakers head into the 2011 legislative session,

    Nice to know they have money to burn to spy on me...

    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      Well they expect to raise $50 billion from the new $5000 "untidy yard" fine that will automatically be added to people's property tax when the drone starts taking pictures of people's yards.

      I am joking of course, but this is how governments think.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      They are a lot cheaper then helicopters. And I think a lot of it will depend on how they are used just like everything else.
      How is a drone all that different than a police helicopter or a patrol car?
      And let's think of the positive use cases. Yes I am all for not being under 24 7 surveillance but having a small drone that a police officer can use to see where a sniper is or to find an armed robber that took off into a field isn't such a bad thing.
      And just to defuse the rhetoric. Yes snipers are rare but arm

  • ...how to down these things with something other than a bullet? If they start using them for anything other than special occasions, I want to see them drop out of the skies like those birds from a couple weeks ago..

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      If you can make out the details so you know it's a drone, it's probably close enough for the field of an EPFCG to fry it. Not that I'd condone that sort of thing, just sayin'...

      • by Bowdie (11884) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:21AM (#34980156) Homepage

        Holy shit. I just wiki'd EPFCG :

        An explosively pumped flux compression generator (EPFCG) is a device used to generate a high-power electromagnetic pulse by compressing magnetic flux using high explosive.

        An EPFCG can be used only once as a pulsed power supply since the device is physically destroyed during operation. An EPFCG package that could be easily carried by a person can produce pulses in the millions of amperes and tens of terawatts, exceeding the power of a lightning strike by orders of magnitude. They require a starting current pulse to operate, usually supplied by capacitors.

        Like I say, HOLY SHIT.

        • by westlake (615356)

          An EPFCG can be used only once as a pulsed power supply since the device is physically destroyed during operation.

          Which implies that you will depositing a generous supply of forensic evidence for the investigation to come.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Yep, an EMP warhead using this technique is used on the head of Tomahawk cruise missiles. The system is basically a coil, a cap, and an explosive. Highly engineered but simple in operation. On the other hand, high explosive tends to make quite a mess, it's not something you're going to get done quietly and cleanly.

    • by mbone (558574)

      It would be safer (and probably more useful in practice) to figure out a way to find out where they are or if they are overhead. You are unlikely to spot them just glancing into the sky, but they radiate RF, and that should be detectable.

    • ...how to down these things with something other than a bullet? If they start using them for anything other than special occasions, I want to see them drop out of the skies like those birds from a couple weeks ago..

      Hack them.

      It's just a flying government computer.

      And that's in fact what scares me the most... they're just flying government computers... so any fool can probably hack into a flying weapon system.

      (All the EMP stuff is fun, but not very practical).

      • I have absolutely zero citations to back this up, but I seem to recall a story a few years back about the drones used in Iraq/Afghanistan would transmit their video data over an unencrypted signal.

        From what I remember the control systems were encrypted of course, but the video data was just openly broadcast so facilitate troops on the ground getting real time video. Basically anyone with a laptop and a dish could listen on the right frequency and see the video. That's not something I want flying over my h

  • "But what we don't want to see is their pervasive use to watch over the American people." Too late.
  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:09AM (#34980098)

    Cheap drones can also be used to do surveillance of police stops by civil rights organizations.
    Let's wait how they like that.

    • So you're suggesting that the civil rights organizations would use a drone for surveillance? I can think of a few ways to put a camera in the air a lot cheaper than those drones; probably under $200 each.

    • by Compaqt (1758360)

      Sure, they shouldn't mind, since they have nothing to hide, of course.

    • Hm... then the FAA gets involved and requires FAA licensure of anything that's not tethered and has directional control or flight stability.

      IOW - balloons can still be released upwards, but no privately-owned drones - only government and corporate.

  • by Petbe (1790948) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:14AM (#34980128)
    So long as the drones are used to create only hatcheries and no sunken colonies, I will be ok. But in all seriousness, I do believe that the aerial drones can play a vital role to Law Enforcement. So long as they are quite secure (so not to be used by a third party) and that they have enough red tape in their use so at least minimize abuse, I am all for them. I will not be so idealistic in believing that there would be enough regulation in their uses that their will be absolutely zero abuses. I hate to be a consequentialist, but I think their uses outweigh the potential harm in some people's liberties. Granted, it is a slipper slope. But for me, I do realize that nothing in life is free. With freedom comes responsibility, and with protection comes restrictions on said freedoms freedoms. There is no perfect balance, nor is is perfect with either extreme. Just hope it is regulated enough to where it creates some form of balance.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      I think you verb in your subject.

    • The responsibility (ie price) of freedom is not giving UP that freedom it is accepting that life comes with a certain degree of danger and uncertainty, and that if you give up your freedom in the name of safety you will wind up with neither.

      • So you're completely opposed to any sort of government or police force then? Every law that exists requires you to give up freedom for security. By your stated ideology, anarchy is the only option. There has to be a balance.

  • If you are in your own house, you can't expect privacy from people in the street if your curtains are not drawn. With a drone you can't expect privacy if you are outdoors even if you are in your own backyard - but it is rather hard to draw a curtain over your backyard.
  • If you want to avoid them you have to go in the sewers, then you have to deal with the manhacks.
  • by mbone (558574) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:29AM (#34980194)

    The same police who shoot people and routinely lie [king5.com] about it and almost never get punished can be trusted not to use these new toys to spy on people salaciously ? What BS. What will happen if they are caught ? Nothing. So, it will go on.

     

    • by Toze (1668155)
      Unless they have drones watching the drones, these things are also great target practice. Not that I'm advocating destruction of public property, I'm just sayin' some problems solve each other.
  • ...become "suspicious activity", if the drone can't get a good look at you?
  • by v1z (126905) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:33AM (#34980744)

    Seriously, no ones mentioned Blue Thunder in this thread yet?

    Ok, so it wasn't unmanned, but definitely relevant...

    The imdb summary http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085255/ [imdb.com] even states:

        "The cop test pilot for an experimental police helicopter learns the sinister implications of the new vehicle."

    1983 wants its privacy concerns back.

  • This is criticized by the typical /. crowd as "OMFG look at the fascist government spying on us!" but really it's exactly what many of you wanted, if you just looked at your expectations rationally.

    Every iota of power you give government (and in the US we have nobody to blame but ourselves and our neighbors), understand that is an equal amount of control they give you.

    Let's look at government-run health care: the moment you say that the government must be attentive to everyone's health care needs (regardles

    • Well said! +1
    • "Let's look at government-run health care: the moment you say that the government must be attentive to everyone's health care needs (regardless of their own stupid choices in life), you immediately give the government logical power over your health care as well: do you smoke? what do you eat? do you participate in risky sports? All of these things suddenly become part of the government's purview."

      No I think the health of the nation is a legitimate role for government. Like lets say, getting the word on on s

  • Whew, I thought that droning noise was in my head. I'll have to look for other evidence that I'm going crazy, like those extra clicks on the phone when I pick it up.

  • What worries me is that these damn things won't be able to "see and avoid" other VFR aircraft. Privacy is all well and good but you won't have any privacy when a Cessna 182 comes crashing through your roof because one of these things ran into it.
  • Nothing takes out a drone like a guided shoulder-launched missile :)
  • by ColoradoAuthor (682295) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:45PM (#34982448) Homepage

    Thus far, in the police tests, drones have been limited [avweb.com] to a maximum altitude of 200 feet and 1,000-foot range from their operator. The FAA is expected to issue an NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) this year to streamline the Certificate of Authorization process for law enforcement. The NPRM process will likely include an opportunity for the public to comment.

  • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Monday January 24, 2011 @01:40PM (#34983324)

    Ah, now for the Good Old Days of East Germany and the STASI! I think, if they were still alive, Honecker and Mielke would each have blown a batch in their pants over what we can do today in the Good Ol' US of A.

    Protect the Homeland, Comrades!

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