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Commercial Drones Taking To the Skies 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the crowdsourced-erosion-of-privacy dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "A new federal law, signed by the president on Tuesday, compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors — from selling real estate and dusting crops, to monitoring oil spills and wildlife, even shooting Hollywood films. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones. But while businesses, and drone manufacturers especially, are celebrating the opening of the skies to these unmanned aerial vehicles, the law raises new worries about how much detail the drones will capture about lives down below — and what will be done with that information. Safety concerns like midair collisions and property damage on the ground are also an issue."
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Commercial Drones Taking To the Skies

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  • by Sgs-Cruz (526085) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:40PM (#39087127) Homepage Journal

    While the commercial uses of these UAVs are cool (hunting feral pigs tearing up your crops using an IR camera on a drone and then radioing the location to your brother with a shotgun! That would be something that only a few militaries in the world could do a decade ago...) the real impact is going to be on the complete loss of privacy for just being anywhere outside in public.

    I've long thought that the ease by which something can be obtained really does matter. I mean, things like divorce records have always been "public", but for most of history, that meant going to the city offices and having some surly clerk find the records for you in a basement filing cabinet. Which meant that strictly speaking, they were public, but in practice most people would never go to that trouble. With online records, finding out juicy details about your neighbour's divorce can be as easy as clicking a link. So the change in ease of obtaining records really does change the meaning of "public", even if it doesn't change the definition in a strictly legal sense.

    It's the same thing with being outside. The advent of huge networks of computerized cameras on the street, on business fronts, and now perhaps on ubiquitous flying unmanned vehicles... it means that while you had no expectation of privacy in public before, in practice it meant that you could generally go places without anybody knowing about it, as long as you didn't just happen to run into somebody that knows you. Before long, an unblinking computer eye will see you everywhere. The idea of going somewhere without anybody knowing about it will be a thing of the past.

    Now, is this, overall, a good thing? That I'm not sure about. Good and bad sides to it, I guess. (I'll be very interested to see its impact on strip clubs and massage parlours, though! Especially if divorce lawyers can subpoena the records.)

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