Drone Video and Audio Surveillance: Invasion of Privacy, or Protecting Life and Property?

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Nidhi Subbaraman of the NBC Technology blog posted an interesting article a few days ago about drone surveillance technology. More specifically, the practical benefits, privacy concerns, and new laws surrounding an influx of surveillance drones in American civilian life.

First, let’s talk about benefits that drone surveillance provides. While drones are excellent at human surveillance and audio and video recording, the use of drones in other fields can also be more efficient and better than humans can provide.

For example, when a fire broke out at a Colorado church in 2011, police and fire departments were able to detect hotspots and see which way the fire was heading. Forest rangers have used drones to read forest fires and put them out more efficiently (University of Cincinnati researchers are developing an unmanned system to help control wildfires.) Some military drones can even be used to watch storms as they brew. Lost hikers can be found more easily. The list goes on.

Video drones are extremely helpful, there’s no doubt about that. They can assist in cutting budgets for various public sectors, especially law enforcement. That said, bills that limit drone possibilities are popping up in state government all over the US.

In Oregon, a bill proposes anyone who flies a drone must have a license from the Oregon Department of Aviation. A Nebraska bill wouldn’t let law enforcement gather evidence from drones unless it was a terrorist threat. There are a handful more.

While surveillance video cameras are already recording people daily, the potential for drones to look into windows and settle into backyards is a little too frightening for some people. Privacy advocates fear the implementation of drones is upon us, and privacy law is too far behind to catch up.

“Privacy law is not keeping up with surveillance technology, and drones are helping us see that,” Ryan Calo, assistant professor of law at the University of Washington told NBC News.

Over at NCAVF, we are look forward to seeing how our national and state laws will evolve to limit the use of drone surveillance technology.

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