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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Coming To Local Skies?

Does the Nassau County Police Department intend to buy robot drones for surveillance? How about your village police department?

The Federal Aviation Administration was compelled last year to release documents about drone authorizations. Legislators in several cities and counties were stunned to find out that their police departments were already using robot drones for surveillance or investigation.

By 2020, 30,000 domestic drones are expected to be zipping around American skies.

It’s not just the government. News Corp. used an md4-1000 “microdrone” to take pictures of disaster areas in North Dakota and Mississippi. On the French Riviera, paparazzi flew one to get photos of Paris Hilton at a beach resort. The advertising pitch: “Wherever the human eye reaches its limits, they are getting used…”

The md4-1000 is about the size of a basketball, with four small propellers that allow it to take off and land vertically and quietly. It’s one of several commercially available drones.

In December, documents revealed that DARPA (the military’s technology development agency) has tested “Gorgon Stare,” which uses up to 12 wide-area cameras to capture video of an entire city. Computers analyze the feeds simultaneously, monitoring everything that happens.

Every Supreme Court nomination invites debate about an implied Right to Privacy in the Constitution. You still have these rights, if you want to live in a forest. You still can say pretty much anything you want in this country. Just understand that someone may be watching and recording.

If there are any phone calls, messages, or files that aren’t being directly collected by our federal government, most corporate conglomerates are happy to hand them over. Verizon and AT&T alone responded to 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011. Your smartphone automatically sends location information back to home base, making 24/7 tracking pretty easy.

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: millercolumn@optimum.net