Ky. Voices: Oppose drone use in the U.S.; risks to privacy overshadow helpful uses

Risks to privacy overshadow helpful uses

April 13, 2013 

Robert M. Bosco is an assistant professor of international studies at Centre College.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster about targeted killings by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also known as drones) grabbed headlines, but there is more to the story.

Right now, the UAV industry association and local law enforcement are pushing communities, state officials and the Federal Aviation Agency Administration to stop worrying and learn to love the drone.

Law enforcement already uses drones for surveillance in Florida, Texas, Colorado, Utah and Hawaii.

Kentucky is poised to play an important role in increasing the use of drones at home and abroad. Four locations in Kentucky either currently host and operate drones or most likely soon will, including Fort Campbell, Corbin, Fort Knox, and Lexington. The University of Kentucky has ongoing projects on UAVs, including an unmanned aerial vehicle team in its College of Engineering.

Drones might create jobs. But so does napalm manufacturing. And there may be legitimate uses for drones, like tracking wildfires or search and rescue operations. Drones might sometimes keep us safe, but let's not be naïve.

The line between technologies of public safety and technologies of surveillance, infiltration and control is fuzzy even in normal times.

In this country, it is absolutely plausible that aerial surveillance could creep toward normal and become a routine part of our lives.

As citizens in the land of the Citizens United campaign finance court decision, we should not underestimate the power that lobbies have to gradually erode federal and state regulations. Nor should we be surprised, because we give them more and more of that power.

April is the month for nationwide action on drones. Increasingly, people are researching the use of drones in our country on their own, and not liking what they find.

Citizens in Virginia, Alabama, California, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri and Washington have already come together to ban drone basing, manufacturing, research or use from their counties and neighborhoods, especially by local law enforcement, defense contractors and universities.

It is time for Kentucky residents to do the same.

Robert M. Bosco is an assistant professor of international studies at Centre College. Reach Robert M. Bosco at Robert.bosco@centre.edu

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