Friday, September 28, 2012

Drones, Privacy, and Space

I value my privacy. When Google made it possible to type in my address in their search box, click enter, then be able to view my house from my street, I felt a bit uneasy. I didn't give them permission to put my house out there like that. I immediately thought of people who don't want certain other people to find them for safety reasons.  Here's another weird thing about those maps. There are never any people in the pictures.  Never.

A couple of colleagues who also work for the State of Michigan told me yesterday they had recently seen a drone flying in Lansing. One was spotted on Grand Avenue last week. A second sighting occurred at the Blues Festival in Old Town, where a drone was observed hovering over the crowd. Upon looking at several pictures online, I deduced that these were either news drones or police drones, based on the descriptions given to me by these two folks.

I don't know about you, but I really don't want these flying spies hovering around my town. I have nothing to hide. But to me, this is an Orwellian invasion of privacy that crosses my limits of comfort.

The limits of what tactics can be employed in the name of security are set by what society will allow. This, of course, assumes society knows what tactics are being employed, but that is another discussion for another time.  The limits are set by how much privacy and personal freedoms we are willing to give up. The greater the security, the higher the loss. The point at which we become uncomfortable with the invasion of our privacy and loss of personal freedoms is highly individual.

How do we deal with this issue as a society?

There are now drone clubs. What is to stop the average Joe from attaching a camera to his drone to spy on his ex-wife or that cute woman he followed home from the diner? What is to stop private companies from selling their services to Corporations for the purpose of spying on employees or the competition? Or high tech criminals, scouting out a potential target?

How about hunting? Who says no one will arm a drone for remote hunting? Or remote killing of another person. That is already done in war. What about our police departments? Will they eventually use drones as assault weapons on unruly crowds or criminals. Do you see where I am going with this?

I would have no qualms about shooting a drone out of the sky if I saw it in my neighborhood. But I don't have a gun. Maybe my hose would bring it down? Or a slingshot? Maybe a Super Soaker? Paintball on the camera lens? How about a stone from Lake Michigan? Do you think that would work? I used to be pretty good at throwing a softball...

We seem to be driven to occupy every bit of space on this planet. I don't know about you, but I want SPACE. To breathe, to swim, to walk, space for my Relations that also call this planet home. I don't want signs of humanity everywhere.

When I was growing up there were no ATVs or jet skis. Four-wheel drive vehicles had not come into fashion. One could go in the woods on State or Federal lands and enjoy nature, the peace and quiet, the solitude. You could take a rowboat out on a lake to go fishing with maybe a small Johnson or an Evinrude motor mounted on the back. You'd drop your anchor, put on the bait, and sit back for relaxing sunny morning of fishing in Michigan.

Then came the powerboats and jet skis. And the ATVs and the four-wheel drive trucks with the giant tires that go mud running through our bogs and wetlands. We want to occupy every possible space on this planet as loudly and destructively as possible. At least some do, without thought or concern for something we seem to have forgotten nowadays. Peace and tranquility. Sometimes I just want to take a hike in the woods and be with nature, away from technology and the modern world. But we find new ways all the time to travel into the wild places without using our legs. It is harder and harder to find quiet in the wilderness. To me, that is a form of invasion of privacy. Mine and all the other Beings that call the woods home.

Drones are just another extension of the human occupation of all available space. I say leave the air to the birds, bats, and insects. Leave it to the wind and the rain.  If you want to play with drones, do it at an airfield. I don't want drones flying around my city, especially those with cameras and weapons. And I don't know what to do to stop them.

God I am sounding old. And I like it.

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