Op-Ed: Drone Usage Guidelines a Good Start

I have spent a considerable amount of time writing about my fears surrounding the use of surveillance drones domestically. However, despite my very clear position on drone use, I don't think they are without some utility. Used in certain ways, they could save lives and benefit society without their use violating the privacy rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Forest firefighting, SWAT missions (which have been granted a warrant), managing wildlife populations, crop management and border control are all current situations where the use of drones does, and could continue to, pay dividends.

Part of the problem to this point is that there have been no legal limitations placed on drone use, leading people like myself to consider very feasible scenarios where very basic privacy rights could be violated by government officials without recourse. Given the almost unlimited ability we have developed as a society to store information, a very dangerous potential combination of data gathering and data storing capabilities was on the verge of being born. I recently came across some very comforting information however. From the Washington Times:

"The Airborne Law Enforcement Association, the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association and the FBI National Academy Associates joined the International Association of Chiefs of Police in supporting rules designed to keep police and other agencies from abusing the power that comes with drone use,
The guidelines call for law enforcement personnel to “secure a search warrant prior to conducting the flight” if a drone could infringe upon “reasonable expectations of privacy.” The rules also say that any images collected by an unmanned vehicle won’t be retained unless they’re collected as “evidence of a crime” or as part of an ongoing investigation. Unless the photos or video are exempt by law, they should also be open for public inspection, the policy states.
The drone sector’s leading trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), has come out in favor of such privacy protections and earlier this summer released its own “code of conduct” for all who design, test and operate unmanned vehicles."

Aside from the idea that the drone sector already has a trade group* there is much to like in the above excerpt. Assuming that any eventual guidelines actually do address legitimate concerns, it is a positive if these well-placed and interested parties can get a framework rule set right; if the proper guidelines are established now, they could guide the conversation over drone use for the foreseeable future. To paraphrase and slightly bastardize the old NRA slogan about guns, drones aren't inherently bad, it is the people who use them who citizens need to fear. With proper guidelines in place, those fears can be alleviated and the best uses of drones can be continued.

*And there is apparently more than one trade group if the term 'leading' is used correctly; I am assuming it takes some measurable amount of time to establish both a trade organization and a leading position in your sector. I understand that drones have been around for a bit now, but it seems a little surprising that they have multiple industry groups which have managed to sort out a pecking order based on their quality. Then again, perhaps I am just being naive...

No comments:

Post a Comment