Unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life. Many Americans have heard of these aircraft, commonly called “drones,” because of their use overseas in places like Afghanistan and Yemen. But drones are coming to America, and, as an ACLU report concludes, protections must be put in place to guard our privacy. Download the report »
As technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, and interest in deploying drones among police departments is increasing around the country, our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values.
In early 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to propose new rules to make it much easier for law enforcement agencies to gain permission to use drones in the U.S. If the FAA is unable to implement the needed reforms, then Congress must act.
The ACLU’s report outlines a set of protections that would help protect Americans’ privacy in the coming world of domestic drones. The report recommends that drones should not be deployed unless there are grounds to believe that they will collect evidence on a specific crime. If a drone will intrude on reasonable privacy expectations, a warrant should be required. The report also calls for restrictions on retaining images of identifiable people, as well as an open process for developing policies on how drones will be used. Download the report »
Routine aerial surveillance in American life would profoundly change the character of public life in the United States. Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a “surveillance society” in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the authorities.