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Congressional report says drones could spell the death of privacy

It’s not just paranoid people who should be freaked out about having unmanned spy drones hovering over their neighborhoods at all times, as a new report from the Congressional Research Service says that drones could effectively end privacy in the United States. Andrew Counts of DigitalTrends does an excellent job of going through the CRS report and finds a number of details that should unnerve anyone who cares one bit about their right to privacy.

In no particular order, here are the scariest aspects of the report:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that there will be 30,000 drones flying around by 2032 that will be “operated by police, military, public health and safety agencies, corporations, and the public in general.”
  • Some of these drones will inevitably be equipped with electromagnetic radars that use thermal imaging techniques to see through walls
  • Some of these drones could easily be equipped with cameras that have facial recognition technology that can also “recognize and track individuals based on attributes such as height, age, gender, and skin color.”

The report concludes that in order to avoid losing our privacy completely, lawmakers will need to step up to the plate and define exactly what constitutes acceptable use of drones by both public officials and private individuals.

Happily, there have been two pieces of drone regulation brought before Congress in recent months: one bill, introduced by Rep Austin Scott (R-GA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “would require the federal government to gain a warrant based on probable cause before drones could be used for surveillance purposes.” Another, introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) “would also require law enforcement to obtain a warrant for drone surveillance, among other restrictions.”

While there’s no way of knowing whether these bills will pass anytime soon, it is at least nice to see this issue is on lawmakers’ radar.


Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.