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BLOG: What privacy do you have left to lose? Beware the drone

Mark Gibbs | March 12, 2012
Last week's column about The Google and its new privacy policy got quite a response, ranging from "I don't get it, what's the fuss?," through to "I don't care, I have nothing to hide," and "it's been pretty obvious for years where this was all heading but very few people bothered to sound the alarm ... until now when it's too late."

What concerns many people is that having these kinds of surveillance systems without any kind of defined policy as to what constitutes acceptable use will almost certainly lead to abuse. In a Stanford Law Review article titled "The Drone as Privacy Catalyst", M. Ryan Calo, Director for Privacy and Robotics, Center for Internet & Society commented:

"Citizens do not generally enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy in public, nor even in the portions of their property visible from a public vantage. In 1986, the Supreme Court found no search where local police flew over the defendant's backyard with a private plane. A few years later, the Court admitted evidence spotted by an officer in a helicopter looking through two missing roof panels in a greenhouse. Neither the Constitution nor common law appears to prohibit police or the media from routinely operating surveillance drones in urban and other environments."

So along with surveillance video, unauthorized wiretaps, cellphone location, and all of the other intrusive technologies, we can now expect to be spied on from above as well. Unless we get real privacy laws in place, the only real privacy will be when we're dead.

Gibbs might be in Ventura, Calif. Try to find him at and follow him on Twitter (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).


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