Friday, February 24, 2012

30,000 drones in American skies, civil liberties in jeopardy

A bill passed last week allocating more than $63 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration would increase the existence of drones in civilian airspace across America and is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.
As America’s drone war begins a new surge in Pakistan, the U.S. House and Senate have both approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act bill, a bill which would pressure the FAA to weaken rules currently in place on domestic drone authority, and allow American skies to be filled with tens of thousands of drones. If the new bill becomes law, up to 30,000 drones could by flying in U.S. airspace by decade’s end. The Senate passed the bill by a 75-20 margin. Civil liberties groups have spoken out on the measure, stating the new legislation offers no restrictions on drone surveillance operations by police and federal agencies and could put us on track toward a “surveillance society.” As drone technology rapidly advances, America’s law enforcement community is eager to use these robotic machines in their daily operations, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) notes
Unfortunately, nothing in the bill would address the very serious privacy issues raised by drone aircraft. This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.
Details in the new drone bill are extensive. Among them, the bill would require the FAA to expedite and simplify its drone operation permission process to government agencies, to be completed within 90 days. The FAA is currently considering a proposed set of regulations alleviating drone rules, set to be released this spring.

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