EFF: Police May Use Armed Drones to Watch You, Citizen Help Needed
June 12, 2012 2:36 PM
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.
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
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 including
live-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
The EFF is concerned about police departments deploying armed UAVs, which raise the potential for serious abuses. [Image Source: AP]
"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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