"Unmanned aircraft have the potential to help law enforcement agencies with missions such as search and rescue or crime scene photography, often at a lower cost than manned aircraft," a spokeswoman from UAVSI said. "While there certainly should be a reasonable conversation about the application any new technology, we are concerned by any proposed legislation that might unnecessarily limit law enforcement agencies' ability to use unmanned aircraft to keep communities safe."
Critics, including numerous federal and state lawmakers, rights groups, privacy advocates and academicians maintain that drone use without meaningful new privacy safeguards is extremely dangerous.
They have noted that drones with facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open Wi-Fi sniffers and other sensors could be easily used for general public safety surveillance in violation of privacy laws and constitutiona rights.
In a report released Jan. 30, the Congressional Research Service noted that the integration of drones into domestic airspace raises myriad new privacy and legal issues. Among the issues highlighted in the report are concerns about the right to protect private property against trespassing drones.
"There are a host of related legal issues that may arise with this introduction of drones in U.S. skies," the report said. "These include whether a property owner may protect his property from a trespassing drone; how stalking, harassment, and other criminal laws should be applied to acts committed with the use of drones; and to what extent federal aviation law could preempt future state law."
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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