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Privacy At Issue As Drones Take On Civilian Tasks

Publication Date: 
March 04, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle
James Temple

Director of Privacy and Robotics at the Center for Internet and Society M. Ryan Calo was quoted by James Temple of the San Francisco Chronicle on the possible use of drones for automated surveillance and policing.

With our wars winding down and the domestic use of drones ramping up, the multibillion-dollar industry wants to upgrade its image as makers of assassins in the sky.

After all, these "unmanned aerial vehicles" can also play important roles as sophisticated map makers, aerial photographers, search and rescue aids and scientific tools.


Ryan Calo, director of privacy at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society, worries that drones could nudge us closer to a surveillance state, where police shift from responding to real crimes to indiscriminately hunting for infractions and suspicious behavior.

"I'm worried about the next phase of policing that's completely automated," he said.


But we get - in an immediate and visceral way - what it means to have floating video cameras tracking our every move, Calo said.

"Drones come with their own psychological baggage," he said. "We think of them as inscrutable robots that we associate with targeted killing."