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Electronic Frontier Foundation Government Privacy United States

Who's Flying Those Drones? FAA Won't Say 405

netbuzz writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation nine months ago filed a Freedom of Information Act request to prompt the FAA to release the names of government agencies and private entities that have received permission to fly unmanned aircraft over our heads. Nine months later, the FAA has neither released the information nor explained why it hasn't. On Tuesday the EFF filed suit (PDF) to force the agency to do so. Says EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch: 'Drones give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans' movements and activities. As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens.'"
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Who's Flying Those Drones? FAA Won't Say

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  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:14PM (#38665596)

    I don't see any reason why such licenses couldn't be sold to the general public. The plane has to meet FAA UAV standards which they'll have to make up as they go along... and some sort of background check and licensing procedure for the pilots will be important. But why shouldn't everyone get in on this thing? UAV crop dusters. UAV traffic helicopters. UAV medical helicopters. Any situation where we might use human pilots... consider if we need them. Maybe we can get skybuses. Big helicopters that take people across traffic congested cities to depots, train stations, or airports.

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:18PM (#38665632)

    you are probably right. they are circling the wagons. no american spring! that would upset the balance of power, here!

    things will get worse before they get better; but oh boy, are we in for some 'interesting' times ahead of us ;(

    anything that represents freedom to the people is fearful to the government (all of them, not just the US).

    world war 3 is not going to be fought with conventional weapons and it won't be single countries against single countries. I hope this does not happen, but all roads point to some big problems ahead for us all.

  • by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:30PM (#38665736)

    What would happen if someone shot one down?

    I would be very surprised if that, in itself, did not qualify as one of those "terrorist acts" that allows the government to ship you off to Gitmo and hold you indefinitely without trial now thanks to the new NDAA.

  • by netwarerip ( 2221204 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:31PM (#38665752)
    Get some trial lawyer lobbying group to ask for this info and it will happen a lot sooner.
    Once a drone crashes people will want someone to sue, and without a pilot there is no one to go after. Enter an attorney from Dewey, Faulkum, and Howe looking for his 33%, and you'll have more briefs flying around than in the showers at Penn State.
  • by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:38PM (#38665840)

    I actually find this subject interesting.

    Ignoring evil government spying and abuse, and just focusing on the standard issue crime we all know and hate...

    We are now near a point where we could use technology to very effectively cut down crime. The issue is no longer technological but social.

    As you said, imagine a camera on every street corner. Imagine a system that constantly monitored every road for bad driving and issued immediate tickets. Cut someone off.. drive too fast.. forget your turn signal.. instant ticket. Imagine how much that would improve safety on the roads. Bad drivers would either improve or driving would become so expensive that they'd give it up.

    Go forward a bit, imagine a system that can automatically detect crime. Imagine literally not being able to rob someone.. or steal anything.. because a system would immediately identify the action, and track you wherever you went until the police picked you up making it virtually impossible to escape. Imagine how much crime that would cut down on.

    All at the expense of having very little privacy, and of course opening the door for massive abuse.

    Do you want to live in that world? Personally I don't think I would either. Do we want to or can we find a middle ground?

  • CORONA, anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:49PM (#38665972) Homepage Journal
    If the drones are prop driven, it wouldn't be hard to build a counter-drone to snag the prop on a line attached to a parachute.
    Jet powered would be a bit harder, maybe a a strong, lightweight lead that could get sucked into the engine without breaking.

    just sayin'...

    damn, that would be a fun job, dreaming up and testing counter-measures.
  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:53PM (#38666018) Journal

    How's the crime rate in London? Has it fallen significantly since they implemented this?

  • Spending (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:13PM (#38666278)

    Control of a populace is merely a means to justify more spending. The Hitlers and Pol Pot's of the world -- those who honestly value power (that special "right" to employ coercion against others) more than the money it brings -- are extremely rare. The vast majority of political elites in the world are hungry for money, not power.

    Above all, spying and mass surveillance is a means to justify spending. The complacency it breeds is valuable to government not merely because it makes their agenda (which is bigger government) easier to achieve, but because it makes spending easier to achieve. At the top of the pyramid, the more money passing through your hands, the more leverage you have to exploit that cash flow for personal gain.

    That's really all there is to it. Not very romantic, is it? Government is all about money, money and money. Follow it, because following the money is 10x as good an indicator of government's true intentions than a politician's age-old speech.

  • by Mitreya ( 579078 ) <mitreya&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:14PM (#38666290)
    This government knows that the populist uprisings are going to eventually come to our shores, this is why they're bringing the troops home,

    Gaaah, why must people say wrong things on Slashdot? I don't think the government is worried about the basement uprisings that are refering to.
    The soldiers are being brought back from Iraq (the only real withdrawal I am aware of) because Bush signed an agreement to bring them back by the end of 2011. Also, Obama had negotiated to keep more soldiers in Iraq, but couldn't get unqualified immunity for them from the Iraqi government. You can read a well written article by Glenn Greenwald here [] if you wish to know more.

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:30PM (#38667180) Journal

    They are only bring the troops home because the new Iraqi government ( that we setup ) essentially kicked us out.

    They asked us to leave and they basically said we are going to attempt to capture and jail US Soldiers if they violate any of our laws, which naturally most of them probably have to do in order to accomplish anything useful over there.

    Nobody in the US government deserves any credit. All our officials were negotiating up until the last to keep the troops there, it was not until those negotiations failed they it turned into "We are keeping our campaign promise to bring the troops home". Its so hollow you'd think it was Sadam's former information minister writing the line.

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @05:04PM (#38667600)

    They asked us to leave and they basically said we are going to attempt to capture and jail US Soldiers if they violate any of our laws, which naturally most of them probably have to do in order to accomplish anything useful over there.

    This was in direct response to contractors and soldiers committing outright murder of unarmed civilians on the streets of their major cities. Did we forget the helicopter gunship mowing down people minding their own business, and then attacking the people who came to help? How about the Haliburton contractors who opened fire in a public square for no reason? How about the group of soldiers in Afghanistan who've been convicted of randomly picking civilians to kill, essentially for fun, and planting weapons on them after the fact?

    Besides all that, the right to enforce you laws inside your own borders is essentially the definition of sovereignty. You make it sound as if the Iraqis were trying to arrest soldiers for speeding when you should know by now that there have been serious criminal acts performed by US soldiers who have as often as not, gotten away with it with a slap on the wrist. It was a reasonable request by any measure, but it was obviously one that Obama couldn't have gone along with, it would have been political suicide. But I have to imagine that they could have leaned on the Iraqi government a whole lot harder and a whole lot longer if they really wanted to keep troops on the ground. Troops or no troops, the Iraqi government receives a lot of support from the US, threatening to yank that away would almost certainly have made the Iraqis change their mind.

  • Re:US = (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @07:20PM (#38668870)
    You want to know something absolutely bone-chilling?

    You know that China that sentences people to labor for thought crimes? That big bad China? Huge population?

    The US imprisons more [] people than they do. That's more people, period. Also more per capita, a shit-ton more per capita, but the really scary number is plain old More. There are over a Billion Chinese! It doesn't seem possible, but it is true.

Trap full -- please empty.