Print 62 comment(s) - last by Ammohunt.. on Jun 21 at 3:03 PM

  (Source: Curbed)
The EFF wants citizens to force local police departments to be transparent about potentially frightening fliers

The U.S. is no warzone, but in what some would call another sign of the rising U.S. "police state", some local police departments are looking to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  These drones are startlingly similar to the kind of fliers used by the U.S. armed forces to perform attacks and surveillance within war-torn Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan -- in fact sometimes they're the same models.

Last month, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) begrudgingly complied with a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to list the parties that had been authorized to use unmanned drones to patrol over U.S. Among those listed among the 60+ accepted applicants were "about two dozen" police agencies.

The EFF is quite concerned about this development, particularly given that buried within the "FAA Modernization and Reform Act", a funding bill for the FAA, was a provision that mandated that the FAA automatically accepted requests by police agencies looking to deploy drones (assuming they provide sufficient paperwork showing they know how to fly them safely).

For Americans, police are essential public servants and key defenders of communities.  But there have also been issues in many regions of police abuses.

Now with the police preparing to gain access to a powerful -- and potentially easy to abuse -- new high tech tool, the EFF is stepping up its efforts to try to involve citizens to force police departments who use drones to offer details and transparency about their program.

Police attacking
The EFF warns that police may soon have the ability to literally peer in your bedroom window.
[Image Source: Occupy News Network]

Specifically, the EFF wants citizens to ask what kind of data is being collected, how many drones are being flown, and what models of drones are being operated.  The EFF is particularly concerned about armed models, which it believes are being put into use.  It writes:

Drones are capable of highly advanced and almost constant surveillance, and they can amass large amounts of data. They carry various types of equipment includinglive-feed video cameras, infrared cameras, heat sensors, and radar. Some newer drones carry super high resolution “gigapixel” cameras that can “track people and vehicles from altitudes above 20,000 feet[,] . . . [can] monitor up to 65 enemies of the State simultaneously[, and] . . . can see targets from almost 25 miles down range.” Predator drones can eavesdrop on electronic transmissions, and one drone unveiled at DEFCON last year can crack Wi-Fi networks and intercept text messages and cell phone conversations—without the knowledge or help of either the communications provider or the customer. Drones are also designed to carry weapons, and some have suggested that drones carrying weapons such as tasers and bean bag guns could be used domestically.
The EFF adds:

This is just the first step. Once we've collected the data, we will release it and tell you how you can contact your local municipal government to demand that they ban law enforcement drones or install robust privacy safeguards that will protect citizens from unwanted—and unconstitutional—surveillance.

Those interesting in helping can visit the project page here.

UAV police
The EFF is concerned about police departments deploying armed UAVs, which raise the potential for serious abuses. [Image Source: AP]

Source: EFF

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By aharris on 6/12/2012 3:00:08 PM , Rating: 5
...this is a huge leap forward in the alleged police state the US has, to-date, been crawling towards. The only way this will not be abused at the hands of police is if all usage data and surveillance is made publicly available within a very short period of time, say 24 hours, after it is collected.

There are certainly positive uses for drones in law enforcement, but the potential negatives outweigh most perceived benefits in this case.

RE: Wow...
By topkill on 6/12/2012 3:12:27 PM , Rating: 1
As long as those FUCKING MORONS on the Supreme Court don't let the police stop private citizens from filming THEM when they're supposed to be doing their job then this is just as likely to catch the cops doing naughty things as any criminals. Just make sure the cops can't destroy the evidence from these either.

Have it automatically copied to a 3rd party so they can't destroy evidence against them either!

RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 3:15:43 PM , Rating: 1
Abuse? Let's not even talk about the potential of abuse. Because civilian police flying around armed Raptor drones is an unconscionable and completely over-the-line situation. Totally unacceptable. Even if NO "abuses" happen, this is not something we should tolerate as a populace.

In a time when the national debate is starting to focus on the eventual necessity of cutting back public services, and some fighting against it, this is very telling. If you have a police department that's so large and so well funded they can maintain and operate armed drones as well as all the other duties of the police, they obviously NEED to be cut back!

Why even have a National Guard? Soon police will have gunship and tank divisions as well! Give me a break with this absurd police state.

Not to sound like a crazy, but yeah, the time to stock up on guns is now. Bunker down, and don't let em' take you alive!!! :P

RE: Wow...
By leviathan05 on 6/12/2012 3:16:49 PM , Rating: 3
First, LAPD SWAT does have a tank I believe, they've had it for awhile.

Second, a single drone can cover the patrol area of multiple police cars and be more likely to observe suspicious or dangerous behavior since they are not conspicuously visible. They also have infrared cameras to allow them better night vision than policemen.

I do agree that having an armed aerial drone is ludicrous for any police department, but the article never actually states that any of the drones flying in the U.S. are armed, it only hypothesizes that they could be.

RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 3:46:30 PM , Rating: 4
The issue is the drones, not whether or not they'll be armed.

A line is being crossed here. And if you can't understand that, I don't know what to tell you. I agree that Police should have the basic tools to "fight crime", but UK style 100% monitoring and surveillance of all citizens is NOT necessary to enforce laws.

RE: Wow...
By leviathan05 on 6/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 4:22:43 PM , Rating: 2
The police use these drones to monitor traffic, speeding, and to be able to observe a reported location in a matter of seconds vice driving there.

The drones ALONE are millions of dollars. Ignoring all the ancillary costs that come with using them. Does it really seem like a very good idea using these "just" for traffic monitoring, speeding ticket's, and observing crimes (after the fact)?

Today drones, tomorrow curfews and Fingermen.

Take off your tin-foil hat and put down the drugs.

So going by your argument, if I'm wrong you save millions of dollars and miss out on a few speeding tickets and mister meaner crime busts. Yeah clearly I'm the nut here...

RE: Wow...
By zaraleth on 6/13/2012 4:23:00 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, it's not like members of the force aren't corrupt or anything. There definitely haven't been cases of abuse, coercion, rape, and collusion with criminals brought against members of the police force.

No, only the civic mind 'justice for all' types want to join force. Never with the mind set of intimidating others with there authority.

And once they have more and more authority, they'd never do anything that was unbecoming of an officer of the law.

Yes, maybe the cameras can't 'see' with much clarity now, but technology will keep advancing. Do you really want drones to be able to take video in HD quality of your family in the backyard? Or what's to prevent an officer spying on his/her ex to see what they are up to?

You have to remember that technology will keep improving, and once you give them the right to do something, you can't take it back.

RE: Wow...
By JediJeb on 6/13/2012 6:10:20 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, maybe the cameras can't 'see' with much clarity now, but technology will keep advancing. Do you really want drones to be able to take video in HD quality of your family in the backyard? Or what's to prevent an officer spying on his/her ex to see what they are up to?

Yup, I can already see these will be constantly patrolling over college campuses in early spring once the weather warms. You know, to make sure all those innocent students are safe and don't get sunburned ;)

RE: Wow...
By Aloonatic on 6/13/12, Rating: -1
RE: Wow...
By Aloonatic on 6/14/2012 8:08:17 AM , Rating: 2
@ all those, no doubt, flag waving patriots of the US of A who rated me down, could you please provide me with links that show how all citizens in the UK are under 100% monitoring and surveillance.

Until then, maybe you think about why you are being led to believe that the above is the case. Maybe to make you think that the monitoring that your own government carries out isn;t so bad?

RE: Wow...
By NellyFromMA on 6/13/2012 1:35:57 PM , Rating: 2
No one is suggesting (I think) that a surveillance drone wouldn't cover more area or be more efficient from a surveilance stand point. However, there is a big concern with the general public having to constantly be watched and monitored by ever expanding technological reach..

I anticipate it will meet little to no resistance though. We are surely in a new dark age eggged on by technology, I have no doubts about that...

RE: Wow...
By Jeffk464 on 6/12/2012 11:59:35 PM , Rating: 2
Armed? I don't see this happening unless things got to sh** Really except for the increased risk of mid air collisions with general aviation I don't see how this is much different from police helicopters. My guess is the first time one of these crashes into a civilian plane they we be pulled from US air space.

RE: Wow...
By MrBlastman on 6/13/2012 12:12:20 PM , Rating: 2
I wish it were that simple. In reality, the moment one of these crashes into a civilian plane, the pilot of the civilian plane will be pulled from the wreckage, put in cuffs, dragged off to some undisclosed location and booked for domestic terrorism.

Don't believe me? It's closer to happening than you really think.

RE: Wow...
By GotThumbs on 6/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: Wow...
By JasonMick on 6/12/2012 3:54:32 PM , Rating: 5
Only a criminal or someone up to no good would have a problem with public cameras. This kind of technology could help solve we all know most criminals are dumb and have committed crimes in plain sight of security cameras. Think of the help this could be for catching kidnappers and low life thugs.

As the other commenter eluded to below...I'm not doing anything in public that I'd have a problem with cameras catching. It's the scum that have a problem.
Err... the issue is that these aren't cameras in a fixed public location.

These are free-roaming cameras, in theory very capable of entering private property and peering into otherwise non-visible private residences and observing you.

Again, people seem to think that this will somehow save money -- every drone costs as much as tens, if not hundreds of police cars and must be operated continuously in order to provide useful support.
For example a Predator drone (used by some agencies domestically) will cost you $4.5M USD per pop.

Further, as Reclaimer states, between capital cost of buying the drone, cost of a service area with trained technicians, potential insurance liabilities, cost of monitoring operators, and cost of replacement parts, such programs would likely require large disbursements from local governments at a time when they claim to be running out of money.

We're talking millions for just a single drone.

Great money saver, huh?

Further, trained operators could in theory use the drone for illegitimate personal purposes (e.g. spying on their neighbors, ex-wife, etc.) without strict monitoring and disclosure. Of course there's no way of knowing if such monitoring or disclosure are in place, since the programs are secret.

To flip your own statement, if the PDs using these have nothing to hide, why are they afraid of disclosing to the public details on their drone program and what steps have been taken to maintain accountability??

Maybe you have nothing wrong with the police being able to enter your private property without warrant and peer in your bedroom window, but I think a lot of people do.

RE: Wow...
By inperfectdarkness on 6/13/2012 1:36:51 AM , Rating: 3
While I don't like the idea of UAV's for PD's, I must admit that it's probably not that far removed from the helicopers that many departments currently employ.

RE: Wow...
By Bad-Karma on 6/13/2012 2:11:27 AM , Rating: 3
For example a Predator drone (used by some agencies domestically) will cost you $4.5M USD per pop.

Actually Mic, most of the first few generations (unarmed observation drones) were pulled from the inventories years ago. Because they couldn't be easily modified to the specs armed variant it was cheaper and quicker to put them out to pasture at Davis-Monthan. Adding hard points to the wings means you also need to beef up the internal structure as well.

I pretty sure they are not available for public auction like the rest of the aircraft, but usually they are resold to other government agencies for pennies on the dollar from AMARC.

The cost of the aircraft itself would be negligible. Now the control facilities and the bandwidth (terrestrial vs. satellite)might be a bit more expensive. Depends on how far your coverage needs to reach.

RE: Wow...
By tayb on 6/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 4:27:59 PM , Rating: 2
What does Fox News have to do with this? Have they even RAN this story? Stop being a troll. Being concerned about our rights and privacy have NOTHING to do with "Fox News".

RE: Wow...
By tayb on 6/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 4:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
Way to purposefully remove my smiley face that indicated I was joking. Yeah, not trolling at all there Tayb. Clearly I was being serious.

RE: Wow...
By Decom on 6/12/2012 5:07:09 PM , Rating: 2
Fox news have already ran similar news stories on Unmanned Drones being used over civilian areas of the US, and just as usual some of their reports were talking like they were already armed with HellFire Missiles etc. and on the hunt for targets.

I do think however, this is another intrusion of our private lives, just one more push from the Nanny State.

Just on the link above, Go Judge Napolitano !

RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 5:29:29 PM , Rating: 2
and just as usual some of their reports were talking like they were already armed with HellFire Missiles etc. and on the hunt for targets.

Right they should just wait for it to actually happen before they report on the possibility. Because that's being a good journalist and Government watchdog?

You know what's funny? When Bush was in office the Leftist media was all up in arms about the use of these drones on actual battlefields thousands of miles away. But drones being used in the actual country flying over citizens heads? Nope, nothing to see here. Just some "Fox News" wackos have problems with drones...

RE: Wow...
By tayb on 6/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 4:37:05 PM , Rating: 2
You can't ride a drone. You can't land a drone and have an officer render assistance from it. Comparing drones to choppers is idiotic.

I think people have this idea of drones patrolling the skies watching cataloging your every move and sending your coordinates back to a centralized server to make sure you aren't doing anything wrong. Impossible, the US is far too large.

Oh don't worry, given enough time and money, they'll figure it out.

RE: Wow...
By tayb on 6/12/2012 4:40:31 PM , Rating: 2
You can't ride a drone. You can't land a drone and have an officer render assistance from it. Comparing drones to choppers is idiotic.

How often do choppers actually land and render assistance...? This isn't SWAT, these are city PDs and I've never once seen a police chopper land. Choppers are routinely used to monitor traffic, assist in police chases, assist in man hunts, etc. Most of the functions of a police chopper can be accomplished with a drone. But oh noes!!!! Teh privacy concerns!!!!

RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 4:50:00 PM , Rating: 2
So you have no concerns at all about civilian police flying military-grade multi-million dollar hardware around? Anyone who questions this must be a "Fox News" tin foil hat crazy.

Okay then argument over I guess. You clearly win.

So much for these just being used for traffic monitoring, by the way. Now before you troll on, I have no problem with him being arrested. He obviously broke laws and acted stupidly. Does that mean we shouldn't be concerned at ALL about the methods used by the police? Shouldn't the question of drone-use legality been settled BEFORE they were used on a US citizen?

Do you even ask these questions before blindly accepting the premise of everything presented to you? Or is it some unshakable loyalty to authority?

RE: Wow...
By Jeffk464 on 6/13/2012 9:15:04 PM , Rating: 2
Speaking of multimillion dollar I think we should be more concerned with budgets. I know in CA the gov keeps trying to jack up fees and taxes to cover the public safety union workers pay, benefits, and huge retirement systems. The fact that these union begotten budgets are going to bankrupt us all should probably be our main concern. Giving them more expensive toys is only going to put us down the rat hole quicker.

RE: Wow...
By Jeffk464 on 6/13/2012 9:16:06 PM , Rating: 2
HOw much money have you lost to crime? How much money have you lost to property tax, sales tax, etc?

RE: Wow...
By twhittet on 6/13/2012 11:02:37 PM , Rating: 2 you even know this case at all? Civilian police didn't "fly" a military drone. The border patrol did a fly-over as a courtesy - after hearing about the standoff from all the radio traffic. Border patrol - already patrolling.

Obviously this is an issue we will have to face, but as usual your ranting and raving with incorrect facts and exaggerations is....well, typical. I expect no less. Way to be - you.

RE: Wow...
By artemicion on 6/12/2012 4:44:23 PM , Rating: 2
Playing devil's advocate here, but those two distinctions seem rather immaterial. Does it really make it more OK if the drone were designed to be capable of carrying a rider? Is it less OK if the police use a helicopter purely for surveillance purposes and with no intention of landing it to render assistance? I don't really care one way or another, but honestly, my first reaction to all this outrage over drones was, why be offended by the use of drones unless you're also offended by the use of helicopters? Because it's easier to use a drone?

RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 5:05:37 PM , Rating: 3
Those are really good questions.

First of all I don't know where people live where Police employ fleets of helicopter surveillance units 24/7. But I've certainly never seen this anyplace I've lived.

We must ALWAYS question an increase in the powers and monitoring ability of the police. This doesn't mean we're "against" it, or "outraged". It's our duty as citizens to question our Government and make sure due process is being followed and our rights are being taken into account.

What I see here are a bunch of too-trusting apologists waving a hand saying "it's fine guys". You know who does that? A bad citizen, an apathetic slob, that's who.

RE: Wow...
By artemicion on 6/12/2012 5:19:22 PM , Rating: 2
I haven't heard of any city employing drone surveillance units 24/7 either, so, again, I fail to see the distinction.

I think what you're trying to get at is that a drone collects much far more information than a manned helicopter. To that, I would pose two questions:

1) do you think the police should be required to employ the less convenient/more difficult method of surveillance because it's less intrusive?
2) don't you think there's *less* opportunity for abuse by an unmanned drone? A guy sitting in a helicopter can lie and say he saw things when he really didn't just to effectuate an arrest. Videotape from a drone is harder to abuse since it's a more objective record.

Regardless of whether the drone is manned or not, the warrant requirement would still exist, imposing a limitation on the opportunity for abuse. If the police improperly violate a person's privacy by deploying a drone to collect evidence without a warrant, that evidence will likely be found to be inadmissible. Given that protection, should we, as a society, demand that the police employ less convenient methods simply to provide further protection against abuse?

RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 5:39:56 PM , Rating: 1
Given that protection, should we, as a society, demand that the police employ less convenient methods simply to provide further protection against abuse?

Between that and a looming police state? Yes, I should say so.

There's another word for "surveillance". Spying. You can cook up all the scenarios you want to trap me into a hypothetical straw man, but when it comes down to it we're arguing about degrees of spying on citizens. NOT just criminals, but common citizens.

RE: Wow...
By croc on 6/13/2012 1:25:59 AM , Rating: 2
"There's another word for "surveillance". Spying. You can cook up all the scenarios you want to trap me into a hypothetical straw man, but when it comes down to it we're arguing about degrees of spying on citizens. NOT just criminals, but common citizens."

There's no 'degree of spying' anymore than there is 'a little bit pregnant' Some things are truly black and white. The US is a police state. Get over it. Or do something about it, your call.

RE: Wow...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2012 5:17:47 PM , Rating: 2
I'll add that it's probably not the best way to spend money but those helicopters can cost several million each and they are much more expensive to fly, insure, and maintain.

Good! That means they can't use too many of them. We're talking about the police here, aren't we? Not the freaking 101st Airborne!

Also I think you're way overestimating the cost of those choppers. Police copters start at $500,000 and can go up to $3million. STILL less than these drones.

But trying to make a budgetary argument in favor of these drones is asinine. You and I both know this will only increase police costs. There isn't going to be any savings with this.

RE: Wow...
By EyesWideOpen on 6/12/2012 5:31:51 PM , Rating: 3
The problem isn’t with the possible uses today, it is unforeseen future uses. Word games are a politician’s tool, they make you believe one thing; but leave the door open to future options of their own choosing. Some politicians were against the patriot act; until they were in power now they use it like they were never against it. By allowing a military weapon system such as the drones without stated limits with penalties for crossing them, somebody will push the envelope just because they can.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Those who press forward without regard for the consequences of actions sometimes create self-fulfilling prophecies, which defeat the reason for doing it in the first place. I am all for security; but now that the police are more closely aligned with politicians, and the politicians know and have them covered. This is just another step the path to the loss of individual freedoms (e.g. Get caught recording the police doing something wrong and go to jail.).

RE: Wow...
By WinstonSmith on 6/13/2012 10:33:37 AM , Rating: 2
"the alleged police state the US has, to-date, been crawling towards"

Crawling? More like running.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki