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Domestic Use of Aerial Drones By Law Enforcement 299

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 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.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:29AM (#34980194)

    The same police who shoot people and routinely lie [] 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 Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:48AM (#34980332)

    Well the government has these "catch all" laws, like "obstruction of justice" and "destruction of government property" if they fail to come up with specific charges to throw against you.

  • by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:52AM (#34980378) Journal

    Indeed. Google have no right to invade property or privacy, while the police have a right when they have gone through arduous democratically approved processes.

    Flying a drone over your house to take photos is no different from using an infrared camera and sensitive microphone from the street... say, to watch your daughter in the shower.

    It's time Americans stopped taking it up the ass while they quibble over "rights of corporations" vs "rights of government". Whenever there's a massive power imbalance, the more powerful party needs careful oversight and should not be allowed to take advantage of you, only serve you (government/charity/mutual) or trade for mutual benefit (private party). No exceptions.

  • 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 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 [] 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.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:45AM (#34980864) Journal

    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 (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.

    Further, if you insist that the government and the law is required to correct every (perceived or real) defect in civil behavior, then you concede that the law has the DUTY to observe every facet of civil behavior, everywhere. Need to make sure I have enough women in my company? Need to make sure I have doorknobs the right height for handicapped access? Someone used the "N" word you say?

    Rather than being intelligent humans, who are expected to evaluate risk and make rational decisions based on that risk, we flee to the skirts of Mother Government. Some scary crazy dudes crashed some airplanes? Let's create a multibillion-dollar bureaucracy that will finger every crevice of 90-year old Norwegian grandmothers searching for explosives, but which dares not actually look twice at Muslim men in fear of lawsuits.

    In fear for the children, we have moronic legislators working nights trying to figure out a way to regulate the Interwebz, instead of just expecting that parents pay attention to what their goddamn kids are doing, and what sorts of people they become, knowing that perverted and disgusting porn is out there, and really can't harm someone with a reasonable view of sexuality.

    Also in fear for the children, we spend billions if not trillions chasing down trivial drug crimes (because they're the easiest to catch), and trying to stop the flow of drugs as if it's not an example of a nearly victimless crime. Can't we just let the potheads and crackfiends just destroy themselves and get it over with?

    We claim we want a 'free' society, but then we demand to be protected from all risk. Essentially, the society that we have ASKED for, is the society that we are getting.

    Hell, it's even in the financial market: instead of letting people get punished for making ignorant or greedy choices, we spend $1 trillion bailing out junk bond dealers and "rescuing" people whose mortgages left them underwater. Hey stupid, if someone says your $30,000 job can afford a $450,000 house, and you believe them? YOU DESERVE WHAT YOU GET. Further, we have a giant shell-game called social security that takes money from the workers to give to former-workers, so that nobody needs to save for themselves. As long as the pyramid holds up, we're great. We pay millions and billions to men who could be working but don't, to women who continue to drop litters despite abject poverty, and then millions more to incarcerate their permanently-damaged young. In this system, it's the people who work for a living every day, pay their taxes, and live within their means that are the idiots - we're stupid enough to continue paying these bailout taxes, and accepting a government that sees us as nothing more than a financial teat that they can continually pull for more money for 'the unfortunate' and 'the downtrodden'.

    We've said "nanny state, please take care of everything for us!" - and empowered them to do so. Yet we're surprised that in turn the nanny state deploys its formidable resources to cover us with a stultifying blanket of surveillance and a Gulliverian web of laws.

    Congrats. We're the idiots to blame.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:20AM (#34981264)

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

    Fixed that for you.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:57AM (#34981676)
    Well over a decade ago I was in college, in a house with some friends. The owner had recently broken up with his girlfriend in a rather ungentlemanly fashion and as a result she called local law enforcement and told them he had a hidden drug manufacturing lab in his home. I'd like to point out at this time that this a very very small town... with a very small police force and again mention this was over 10 years ago... The police showed up while I was there drinking a beer. They never bothered me, I in fact continued to drink my beer while standing in a corner chit chatting with one of the cops. One of them whipped out a device that had a large block on one end and a LCD screen on the other. I have no idea how it worked, I assume ultra sound, but they literally looked through the walls of the house with it. They just put the large block thing against the wall and a cable ran back to the screen which showed what was inside it (looking for hidden rooms and such.) They were rather proud of their new gadget and showing it off to us... I think they were already pretty sure the ex was lieing and this allowed them to prove it without destroying the mans house... then they charged her with filing a false report.

    At first I was horrified they had such tech. But in this particular case, this police force used it in a very public friendly way. I guess what

    I'm trying to say is: Drones don't invade your privacy, bad cops do. If these devices lead to fewer incidents where swat teams descend on innocent suburban families eating dinner, I'm all for it.
  • by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:18PM (#34982006)

    the opportunity for the kind of surveillance now undertaken by piloted helicopters at a fraction of the price.

    And an exponential increase in risk to everyone in the air. The simple fact is, these aircraft can not comply with FAA regulations and therefore transfer 50% of the "see and avoid" burden to every other pilot in the air. Its simply not fair. Especially when you consider the hugely increased burden of attempting to visually detect such a small aircraft in what is likely to be busy airspace.

    The Houston version had an 8 foot wingspan, and was tossed aloft to launch.

    A single, small bird, can easily create an emergency or even death for airplanes. An aircraft this large is extremely likely to create catastrophic results should it impact another aircraft.

    Got to be cheaper to operate and own than the $4+ million per for the most

    Justifying huge air safety risks because of extremely poor budget practices is simply a bad idea. The reality is, for the operational cost of one turbine helicopter, two to four piston helicopters can be operated. And for the price tag of that same turbine helicopter, those two to four piston helicopters can be purchased. The simple fact is, any attempt to guise this as "tax savings" efforts is political speak for bullshit. And this completely ignores the fact that for many missions, fixed wing can typically satisfy most missions for a faction of both cost and operational expense. If they are flying turbine aircraft and speak of budget concerns, you know without any doubt, they are completely full of shit.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.