By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Imagine tiny, flying, remote-controlled cameras spying your every move. It seems far-fetched, but it could become more common in the next couple of years as lawmakers in our area have introduced new legislation that tackles the technology before it becomes a threat.
Last year, Congress passed a law authorizing the FAA to open airspace to unmanned aircraft or drones in 2015. As drone technology improves and becomes cheaper…privacy concerns..are rising.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Air National Guard announced it will operate a drone command center in Horsham and according to Electronic Frontier Foundation, Penn State is on an FAA list of groups seeking persmission to use drone airspace.
“Drones being used not only by the government, but by private persons opens up very significant risks,” says Dave Rudovsky, a law professor at University of Pennsylvania Law School. He says unfettered use of drones by law enforcement could lead to civil rights violations.
“The danger arises when law enforcement uses drones to investigate a person- rightly or wrongly- and then is able to accumulate an enormous amount of private information about the individual,” he says.
Lawmakers in 35 states, including, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have already introduced legislation limiting police use of the technology.
“Drones should be prohibited for indiscriminate mass surveillance with their use by police only permitted where there are grounds to believe that they will collect evidence related to a specific instance of criminal wrongdoing,” says Allie Bohm, advocacy and policy strategist for the ACLU. The group has been closely monitoring the development and domestic use of the devices.
Bohm says use of drones could be very helpful, especially in the case of fires or missing children. But it’s a slippery slope.
“The fear is that you will be watched at all times,” she says. “People change their behavior if they know that they are being watched. It could chill people from going to a political protest or a mosque or a gun store.”
She says the ACLU recommends that non-emergency police use require a warrant.
“We need to ensure that we are able to take advantage of good uses without creating a surveillance society,” says Bohm.