The Future of Privacy Will Not End Well For Us
Just in case you haven’t seen the memo: Drones are coming to a city near you. They are arriving on these shores by the hundreds after serving in war zones overseas, and plenty of new models are on order to meet a burgeoning domestic demand.
Why now? Under a fresh mandate from Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration will begin to relax its restrictions around the domestic use of “unmanned aerial systems,” leading to greater use of drones by public agencies and, eventually, the private sector.
The FAA’s primary concern is safety; carelessly deployed drones might literally crash your dinner party or collide with other aircraft in the already crowded skies. But civil-liberty groups are worried about what they see as a greater danger: the specter of massive surveillance.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the FAA to release records of who has asked for permission to use drones. The ACLU recently issued a report on drones and privacy. The D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a petition asking the FAA to consider privacy as the agency opens American skies to unmanned flight.
It is easy to see why these and other groups are concerned: It turns out that there is very little in American privacy law that would prohibit drone surveillance within our borders.
Citizens do not generally enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy in public, nor even in the portions of their property visible from a public vantage. Google, with Maps and especially Street View, has taken full advantage of this, for example.