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  (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

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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.

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