The problem with drones is that they collect and store information without a warrant. I do not have a problem with drones being used by the government in much the same way police helicopters are used to locate and track suspects. But when information is recorded without a warrant or probable cause, this violates the Constitution. According to inforwars.com one of the drones being developed called ARGUS, can spy on up to 15 square miles at a time, and store 5,000 hours per day of high definition footage. The drone tracks everything moving on the ground, and can zoom in enough to see someone waving, a bird flying around, or what type of clothes a person is wearing.
In Australia, personal remote controlled drones that cost about $350 each are flying off the shelves, according to an Australian newspaper. Consumers mostly use the drones as toys, but there is concern from the public that the small unmanned aircraft controlled by a smartphone could be used by peeping toms. But why don’t people seem to share the same concern over the misuse of drones by government? With drones that are better at recording, less detectable, and higher quality, what would keep any government officials from using the drones for the same unsavory purposes of the public? The TSA alone has been the center of a number of arrests for agents possessing child pornography, rape, sexual assault while in uniform, and other sex crimes 14 of which are listed and explained here. The TSA is just one federal agency, but I think that demonstrates that it is not only private citizens who pose a risk to others safety and privacy.
If an individual recorded a person on private property without their consent, they could be prosecuted for breaking a law. Our government wants the ability to record every movement in a medium sized city, at all times, and store that information indefinitely. Why does something that freaks us out in the hands of individuals become okay when used by the government? The government’s potential for abuse and misuse is far greater than the general public, based on their access to information, access to government resources, and “official” status. It is one thing to be subject to surveillance when in public, but while on your own property it is a clear violation of rights to be recorded and have that information stored. According to the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
By storing every piece of aerial footage from an entire city to be dug through whenever the government wants, this is clearly not collecting information on a particular place, and for a particular reason. I am not secure in my person, house, papers, and effects against an unreasonable search if no warrant is required for the government to sit there viewing my home from an eye in the sky, looking for a crime to prosecute. According to our Constitution, a warrant must have been issued prior to a place being searched, or a thing being seized.
This does not mean the government cannot progress any further in terms of technology which helps them detect and prosecute crimes. It just means that they must still follow protocol which protects people’s rights against unlawful detention, and false prosecution. If something specific and illegal is reasonably believed to be happening on someone’s property, the police should obtain a search warrant before using surveillance on that property, even when the surveillance happens from 20,000 feet above. I don’t see any excuse for erasing our rights just because technology has advanced to the point that the government conceivably can violate all of our rights. The government needs to use technology within the limitations of the Constitution, because the technology presents a unique new threat to privacy, and the illegal collection of information on innocent civilians.
Just remember that we all commit crimes, some we are not even aware of. We acknowledge this when we are driving down the road, “A cop can find something to pull you over for if he wants”. So why do we think it will be any different on our own property? If there is someone the government–or an individual in the government–wants to arrest or harass for any reason, they will be able to find a violation of the law, by constantly recording everything that happens on that individuals property. Did they build a shed without a permit? Did they chop down a tree that could have fallen the wrong way? Did their storm water runoff violate EPA standards? Did they improperly dispose of a vehicle in their backyard? Was the nest of the blue fanged poppycock disturbed while mowing the lawn? Do they have the proper permits for keeping chickens? Did a physical scuffle occur on the property? Is marijuana being grown, smoked, sold? Are they burning leaves without a permit? Did they just milk a cow and sell the milk?!?!?
Let’s not be so naive as to think the government wouldn’t abuse their power, which is entirely the point of the protections specified in Bill of Rights.