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

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.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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