Feel like someone’s watching you? A quick peek at the EFF’s Map of Domestic Drone Authorizations may prove your paranoia justified.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released an updated list of organizations allowed usage of unmanned drones in U.S. airspace in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The list shows that 81 public groups have been granted permission to operate drones thus far. On the list you’ll find many organizations you’d expect, such as The State Department and several Sheriff’s Offices, and a few that may surprise you, like Barona Band of Mission Indians Risk Management Office and a several community colleges.
The EFF explains their concerns regarding the proliferation of drone usage across the United States in the following statement:
“As we’ve written in the past, drone use in the United States implicates serious privacy and civil liberties concerns. Although drones can be used for neutral, or even for positive purposes, drones are also capable of highly advanced and, in some cases, almost constant surveillance, and they can amass large amounts of data. Even the smallest drones can carry a host of surveillance equipment, from video cameras and thermal imaging to GPS tracking and cellphone eavesdropping tools. They can also be equipped with advanced forms of radar detection, license plate cameras, and facial recognition. And, as recent reporting from PBS andSlate shows, surveillance tools, like the military’s development of gigapixel technology capable of “tracking people and vehicles across an entire city,” are improving rapidly.”
To say that the technological advancement of unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) is outpacing our legal sophistication in regulating these devices is an understatement. Drones such as Beijing MicroPilot’s SKY-02 UAV (pictured above) can be purchased for as little as $1,000. While undoubtedly an invaluable tool for law enforcement, concerns over the privacy of citizens has caused Charlottesville, Virginia to ban the use of aerial surveillance drones altogether.