Drones: Eyes in the Sky - Privacy Debate

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As drone technology begins to sweep the nation, the question has to be asked, 'What's to stop them from looking into windows, or following people around?"
It's an issue that nearly 40 states are tackling, Michigan included.
"We're talking about drones that have the potential of gathering data that isn't necessary," said Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills), whose House Bill 4455 is hoping to add some rules and regulations to drone flying. "My drone legislation would put requirements on law enforcement."

House Bill 4455 would require that police have a warrant or that there's imminent danger. It would also require departments to give detailed flight path reports, have permission from local governments for use and to not have any weapons attached.
It's legislation the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police thinks is too restrictive.

"By this legislation, we have to post on our website every time the drone took off, every time landed," said Robert Stevenson, Executive Director of the organization and former Livonia Police Chief. "Where the drone flew to, where it flew from. We're basically giving away all of our surveillance techniques."

On top of that, Stevenson says he isn't aware of any departments in the state that currently have a drone and believes the legislation is solution in search of a problem.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan disagrees.
"By all estimates, this is going to be a $90 billion industry in the next ten years," said Shelli Weisberg, Legislative Director for ACLU Michigan, who is working with Rep. McMillin on the bill. "The FAA has to have their regulations done by 2015 and I know that law enforcement and DNR...would really like to use drones, so I think that they'll want to see us have some parameters around the use of drones."

They will have to hurry because the secret is out.
Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth first encountered drones at a trade show, last winter, and was impressed.
"You get up in a helicopter and have people shooting at you and if you can do without that, I think it's a pretty good application of technology," he said.

Stevenson agrees, it's all about using the technology for good.
"Don't forget, when we're not police officers, we're members of society too," he said. "We don't want the government spying on us and actually, we don't want to spy on people."
Either way, we can expect the debate over drones to continue in the foreseeable future.