News / USA

    US Rights Advocates Turn Drones on Government

    FILE - A drone flies near the scene where two buildings were destroyed in an explosion, in the East Harlem section in New York City, March 12, 2014.
    FILE - A drone flies near the scene where two buildings were destroyed in an explosion, in the East Harlem section in New York City, March 12, 2014.
    Jim Randle
    The growing capability of civilian drones worries some U.S. civil liberties advocates, who say these "eyes in the sky" could give the government too much information about ordinary people.  But one key expert says these unmanned aerial vehicles are getting so cheap they can turn the tables on government by giving protesters a way to watch the police.

    YouTube videos show several instances of camera-equipped drones over flying over demonstrations in Poland, Thailand, Turkey and elsewhere.
     

    Some of the videos show throngs of people, burning barricades, tear gas and large numbers of police.

    American Civil Liberties Union policy analyst Jay Stanley said protest groups figured surveillance of police activities made it less likely officers would use excessive force. 

    "We think that drone surveillance technology should not be used by the government to watch over the people when it doesn’t have reason to suspect you, but we do think it should be able to be used by the people to watch the government," he said.

    Stanley said many new technologies threatened privacy, but a government eye in the sky worried Americans even more than other activities that were probably just as intrusive.

    “There has been an outpouring of concern over drones, unlike anything I’ve seen as a privacy advocate for 15 years,” he said.

    U.S. aviation regulators and many U. S. state legislatures have passed or are considering new laws governing drone use.

    Stanley said to protect privacy and liberty; police should be required to have a reason to believe that someone is breaking the law before they start tracking someone’s activities with a drone.  

    But a veteran private investigator Philip Becnel says current U.S. laws that govern surveillance from conventional planes or helicopters are adequate and are likely to cover drone operations. 

    He said that meant it would be legal for police to use a drone to spot an illegal marijuana farm from the air, but would not be legal to peer into someone’s bedroom window.

    Becnel said cheap civilian drones were noisy and can’t stay airborne very long, while effective drones cost too much for most private eyes.

    “To get a drone that you could really do surveillance with you are looking at spending three or four grand ($3,000-$4,000) at least, so that’s cost-prohibitive [too expensive] for most private investigators right now,“ said Becnel.

    That’s changing as drones get smaller, gain endurance, and are equipped with better sensors.

    That’s why drones are getting many news jobs, like delivering packages, and also why they could become more persistent and more intrusive.  

    A researcher at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London says there are good reasons to worry about privacy.

    But in a Skype interview, Professor Keith Hayward said drones also offered unique contributions.

    “I think they [the problems] are manageable, and the balance, I think the benefits and advantages that might accrue to the agricultural sector, to resource management, to environmental management, is something that we are just going to have to balance as a society," he said.

    For example, drones have been used for years to sow seeds or spray chemicals in fields, and monitor and inspect other agricultural and industrial activities far more cheaply and safely than manned aircraft.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora