First it was the Big Gulp. Then it was the cigarettes. Now it’s your privacy. New York City’s, nanny-at-large, Mayor Bloomberg, may not want New Yorkers to see tobacco products in stores, but now he wants to make sure that he and the NYPD can see everything else, anybody at anytime, anywhere and at any moment, and he doesn’t care what you think about it and it’s all at the expense of your own, personal privacy.
“Get used to it.” Bloomberg proclaimed, callously, on his weekly radio show address recently, “It’s just we’re going into a different world, uncharted, and, like it or not, what people can do, what governments can do, is different. And you can to some extent control, but you can’t keep the tides from coming in.”
Bloomberg also had some unsavory opinion and disdain for how some people view the use of drones, which may sometime in the very near future be patrolling the skies of NYC. “What’s the difference whether the drones are up in the air or in the building?” Bloomberg said. “I mean intellectually, I have trouble making a distinction.”
It looks like somewhere along the line though, Bloomberg is missing the point that the difference is the distinction.
Most people in NYC are used to the fact that cameras watch their every move on NYC streets. The New York City Civil Liberties Union estimates that there are approximately 2,400 police surveillance cameras operating in the city. They sit on street light poles, atop buildings and in subways, and that doesn’t include the “Ring of Steel” cameras from banks, office buildings, retail establishments and other privately-owned commercial properties that are integrated with the NYPD surveillance network. Here’s the difference, though – they are all fixed in place.
Drones, however, offer a new paranoia. They fly around, and they can go anywhere their handlers want, anytime they want, and no laws currently exist that govern what they can and cannot be used for. This opens up an endless array of possibilities for law enforcement and government agencies that have already announced they intend to use drones domestically, for whatever purposes they feel are pertinent, which now has many people, watchdog groups and civil liberties organizations concerned.
Some cities and politicians are fighting back. Rep.Austin Scott, R-Ga., introduced a bill recently that would restrict domestic use of drones, unless “exigent circumstances” exist, like in missing person cases and hostage situations. Virginia has become the first state to pass a moratorium on the use of domestic drones, while U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced “The Preserving American Privacy Act” which requires search warrants to be issued to collect personal information on citizens.
The technological capabilities of drones are frightening. Even Mayor Bloomberg said himself, “It’s scary.” The latest models can be fitted with infrared cameras, heat sensing devices, or facial recognition technology. Some drones can be equipped with mini cell phone towers that can intercept your text messages, phone calls and hold your GPS co-ordinates hostage. The most advanced drones employ thermal-imaging technology which allows them to see thru walls. Some drones are capable of “whole-city-surveillance”, which means they can get around spying concerns by viewing an entire city at once, then zooming in on the exact location or person they want to watch. One defense contractor even has designed one that is eight inches long, has three video cameras in it, two microphones, weighs less then a AA battery, and can park itself on your home’s windowsill and record everything going on inside.
What’s even scarier, is that the Armed Services Committee, last year, called for Congress to allow drones to operate “freely and routinely” in U.S. airspace. Certainly terrorism activities operating within the United States plays a large role in that request, but how that coincides with domestic uses of drones remains to be seen.
Currently the only organization preventing domestic use of drones is the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Their main concern is that drones will disrupt and wreak havoc on air traffic, but Congress has been putting steady pressure on them to lighten up on those restrictions.
As unsettling as it sounds, domestic drones are on their way. If nothing is done to amend the privacy laws in our country soon, then police departments and government agencies will soon have free rein to use them anyway they like.
So next time you’re walking down a New York City street with a 22-ounce, Big Gulp in your hand, don’t be surprised when you look up, there’s this creepy, spidery-looking drone (with Mayor Bloomberg’s face on it) smiling down at you and flashing a neon sign that says “Gotcha!”
Joseph E Rathjen is a Freelance Writer – FOR HIRE – and can be contacted at josephrathjen @ aol . com
“Copyright 2013 Joseph Rathjen – All Rights Reserved”
- Bloomberg: Military-Style Drones Will Patrol NYC (patdollard.com)
- Bloomberg: Police Drones are Here, Get used to it! [VIDEO] (secretsofthefed.com)
- Mayor Bloomberg: NYPD Drones Over The Big Apple Are ‘Scary’ But Inevitable (embargozone.com)