One of the first organizations to warn against the threats to Americans’ safety and privacy posed by the domestic use of drones, The Rutherford Institute has drafted model resolutions and legislation aimed at preventing police agencies from utilizing drones outfitted with anti-personnel devices such as tasers and tear gas and prohibiting the government from using data recorded via police spy drones in criminal prosecutions.
Drone technology has advanced dramatically in the ensuing years, with surveillance drones getting smaller, more sophisticated and more lethal with each evolution. While there are undoubtedly legitimate uses for drone technology, such as locating missing persons, there is no legitimate reason for the government to collect a constant stream of information on the whereabouts of Americans. Many are equipped with cameras that provide a live video feed, as well as heat sensors and radar. Some are capable of peering at figures from 20,000 feet up and 25 miles away. They can also keep track of 65 persons of interest at once. Some drones are capable of hijacking Wi-Fi networks and intercepting electronic communications such as text messages.
“These drones—aerial, robotic threats to privacy and security—are being unleashed on the American populace before any real protocols to protect our privacy rights have been put in place and in such a way as to completely alter the landscape of our lives and our freedoms,” warned John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “What most Americans fail to realize is that even the so-called moratoriums on drones being enacted by various state legislatures accomplish little more than allowing legislators to avoid the issue until it’s too late. The only way to hold the line against civil liberties abuses is for the states to ensure that these drones will not be equipped with weapons and that any data acquired by them will not be used against Americans in a court of law.”