Friday, May 18, 2012

Foolish Friday: "War of the Worlds" Drone Paranoia Comes to Chicago

Within the past 48 hours, several major local news outlets in the Chicago area, such as CBS and Fox News, reported on a YouTube video which purportedly shows the flight of an armed drone over a soccer field in the Chicago suburb of Elgin, IL. The event is then linked by speculative commentary to protection efforts for a NATO Summit that will be taking place in the Windy City this weekend. Find below the video in question:

After 50,000 plus views and a slew of comments on lesser known websites that in some cases approached Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" level of paranoia, some inquiring minds came to the realization that the above video was a fake. To learn more, use the link below to read an article from The Cardinal:

Comment: What we don't understand, we fear.  A point that is particularly true when it comes to things in the sky. Throw in a surveillance capability - and the situation is going to be heightened.  And so it is for some reporters and news consumers in Chicago - they got fooled by something they didn't understand.  On reflection, was it realistic to have an armed drone in the skies above Chicago?

Despite the comments above, frequent readers of EPC Updates will realize this author has great concerns about where the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle/Unmanned Aircraft System/Drone revolution is headed.  That's because of the general lack of public engagement and discourse on the legal and ethical implications of what these systems will eventually mean in modern society. Much like the legal issues that have come to the forefront with GPS tracking (See: The Location Tracking Mess - 7th Circuit Allows Warrantless Searches of Cell Phones), we are now forging ahead with another branch of geospatial data collection that has the potential to push the limits of legal understanding (See: Drone Arrest - Legal or Not?).  Consequently, the irony of the original video is that instead of creating a fake incident in an effort to stir up the masses, a far more meaningful and substantial result could have been potentially achieved by simply reporting the truth - on Monday, May 14, 2012, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) issued guidelines that significantly ease the restrictions on the use of drones by public safety officials (i.e. police).  Not that the development was bad on its own - its that the easing of operational restrictions came without any legal guideposts for how these systems can be used.   

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