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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

S.F. Civil Liberties Group Wants Feds to Stop Being So Secretive about Drones

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM

click to enlarge Big brother is multiplying
  • Big brother is multiplying

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the U.S. Department of Transportation, claiming that the feds are withholding important details about drones -- the unmanned aircraft used in the military --  and under what circumstances public and private entities be allowed to use them.

According to the complaint filed in San Francisco this week, public entities, including the government, have to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration "to fly an unmanned aircraft in civil airspace." To date, the FAA has authorized more than 270 drones, with 35 percent being flown by the Department of Defense, 11 percent by NASA and 5 percent by the Department of Homeland Security, the complaint states.

And while the feds are trying to further integrate drones into national airspace, the EFF claims the aircraft -- operated remotely --  could be violating civil rights. In some cases, drones could be used to track missing people, drug dealers, and could be used for recording traffic violations, which might be good on one hand, and invasive on the other.

"The use of drones in American airspace could dramatically increase the

physical tracking of citizens -- tracking that can reveal deeply personal

details about our private lives," said Jennifer

Lynch, attorney for the EFF.

While the FAA has already started easing its rules for flying drones, civil liberties groups are worried that the public has little to no information about who is flying these drones and where.

Hoping to shed some light on this mystery, the EFF submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request to the Department of Transportation in April, which was "blown off," the claim states.

 "Despite FAA's acknowledgment, after nearly nine months the FAA has yet

to process and release records responsive to EFF's FOIA request,"

Lynch said. "We're asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request

so we can learn more about who is flying the drones and why."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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