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Domestic use of aerial drones by law enforcement likely to prompt privacy debate

The Washington Post reports, in an article on January 23, 2011 entitled "Domestic Use of Aerial Drones by Law Enforcement Likely to Prompt Privacy Debate," that the drone technology that has revolutionized warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is entering the national airspace. 

The Post reports that "[u]nmanned aircraft are patrolling the border with Mexico, searching for missing persons over difficult terrain, flying into hurricanes to collect weather data, photographing traffic accident scenes and tracking the spread of forest fires."

Though used in limited instances currently, by 2013 the FAA expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground – high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky.

The presence of predator drones over American communities will likely drive fresh debate about the boundaries of privacy. Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, is quoted "Drones raise the prospect of much more pervasive surveillance…We are not against them, absolutely. They can be a valuable tool in certain kinds of operations. But what we don't want to see is their pervasive use to watch over the American people."

For the full text of the article, click here

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