Privacy Worries May Stall Commercial Use of Drone Aircraft
In the not too distant future people will have to assume that they are on someone’s camera most of the time whenever they step outside their home. Neighbors and business’ will have security cameras operating either wired or wireless to pop up who’s at the door. Traffic cameras will become ubiquitous, and the day of the drones is upon us as well.
What laws and regulations do we need to protect privacy? Where can drones fly, are you subject to peeping tom provisions if your front door camera can also see through the windows across the street? What are expectations of privacy if you are in your yard? There’s a lot to weed through in the coming years.
Drones are relatively rare in U.S. airspace, but that could soon change.Last year, Congress mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration create a plan for the safe integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace. Those regulations should be complete by 2015, and the agency expects a commercial boom — as many as 30,000 drones airborne in the U.S. by 2020. But public fears about police spying could stall the technologically advanced industry eager to be unleashed.
Experts say that before the tiny aircraft — outfitted with technology to surreptitiously track, sense and explore — are launched to do the work of science and industry, the government must make sure there are privacy safeguards in
The University of Colorado at Boulder in 2010 was part of Vortex2, with more than 100 scientists studying tornadoes. An armada of unmanned craft carrying observation gear surrounded supercell thunderstorms and the tornadoes they spawned. (Courtesy of the University of Colorado)
“If we don’t fix the privacy problems for civil liberties, we’ll never realize the benefits from drones,” said Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington who specializes in robotics and privacy. “Folks will be afraid and object.”
Some Colorado police departments are already using the technology to aid in their work, but top brass in Denver say they’ll stay away until privacy issues are resolved.