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Coming to a medium-sized city near you
February 3, 2013 10:24 AM   Subscribe

DARPA has developed a 1800 megapixel sensor array for use on UAVs. It is capable of spotting something as small as 6-inches while covering an area half the size of Manhattan.

In other news, drones are a booming business. Boeing recently picked up a big R&D contract for the development of the Solar Eagle as part of DARPA's VULTURE II program. The goal is to have a UAV capable of staying aloft for it's entire 5-year lifespan. The legality of all of this has been questioned, over and over and over and over (pdf) and over again.

Don't say we didn't warn you. And that's just the domestic stuff, really.

So find out today if a drone has been spying on you! Disclaimer: May not include all domestic drone use
posted by dubusadus (84 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you need me, I'll be the guy wearing a shrubbery whenever he's outside. For the rest of my life.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:28 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


A functional scramble suit is looking increasingly necessary for those of you in North America.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:30 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think drones are one of the scariest inventions since the Internet...
posted by Strass at 10:31 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw this on CBS news. They said it was for the battlefield, The video they showed was of (i think) Marin CA. Tagging cars, people and basically anything that moved with those Person-of-Interest-ry reticules and vectors.

Not many cars on the battlefield.

And drone-on-drone action is surely coming. That's why I'm more worried about falling debris that visual surveillance...
posted by djrock3k at 10:39 AM on February 3, 2013


One thing that came to mind: how does this change the need for satellite technology when you can get similar (from my untrained eye) results from something much cheaper to maintain and much more responsive.
posted by codacorolla at 10:40 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


ARGUS' real-time surveillance capabilities rely on both on-board and ground-based processing, which need to transmit to the tune of 600 gigabits per second, though DARPA won't disclose exactly how they'd be able to run that kind of network from the air.

How would they solve that problem, I wonder? Highly parallel wireless feeds on various frequencies?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:41 AM on February 3, 2013


They said it was for the battlefield...
Not many cars on the battlefield.


Depends on how/where you define the battlefield, eh?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:42 AM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wonder what it would take in terms of camera and microphone sensitivity to track all the flying vehicles above a residence throughout the day. A few stepper motors and a telephoto lens could cover alot of airspace.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the future *was* everybody wearing the same bland garment, all to screw with the panopticon of modern society.
posted by nickggully at 10:43 AM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


The UK's ubiquitous CCTV program is at least publicly acknowledged and there is a body of law in place about the public's right to know and right of access to that information. I'm sure it's very flawed, particularly in practice, but at least they're making a show of being forthright about it. In the US that's not going to happen, because we won't acknowledge that it is happening. All that will happen is people will use the words "tinfoil hat" a lot to try to shut down any discussion.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:46 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not the legality that worries me (foremost), but the practicality. I read an article in WIRED ten or fifteen years ago discussing the idea that unmanned aircraft could stay aloft above cities for months at a stretch—to provide wireless connectivity, if I recall the context. I remember thinking at the time, "That seems dangerous. They can't even design a laptop that doesn't crash. When this software crashes, it's going to crash. Onto a city."

And I don't see that having changed. We read stories about unmanned military drones crashing, and I wonder how often it happens that we don't hear about. Meanwhile you can apparently crash any OS X 10.8 program by typing eight characters into it, and my text editor crashed about twenty minutes ago.

So no, you cannot store your unmanned metal device above my house for months at a time.
posted by cribcage at 10:46 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


On Friday's "Democracy Now", Mumia Abu-Jamal called the US "one of the biggest open-air prisons on Earth" - I used to take these kind of comments as hyperbole, but they now sound about correct.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:47 AM on February 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Not many cars on the battlefield.

Since at least 1945, battlefields -- even proper, fully paid up members of the Association Of Proper Battlefields -- have had lots of cars and trucks and things that go.

Which doesn't make the Flying Panopticon any less creepy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:50 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


600 gigabits per second

How would they solve that problem, I wonder? Highly parallel wireless feeds on various frequencies?


If the thing fired off blu-ray discs to the ground like frisbees, that would be 3 every 2 seconds. Crazy.
posted by fings at 10:52 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


The new info comes from "Rise of the Drones," a new PBS NOVA TV special-bordering-on-infomercial which was funded in part by drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin

Oh that's not fucking ominous sounding at all
posted by nathancaswell at 10:54 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


They can see my penis from space!
posted by cjorgensen at 11:00 AM on February 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


Drone Home
Flying a drone, even just a Parrot, makes you realize what a radically new and deeply strange technology drones are. A drone isn't just a tool; when you use it you see and act through it — you inhabit it. It expands the reach of your body and senses in much the same way that the Internet expands your mind. The Net extends our virtual presence; drones extend our physical presence. They are, along with smart phones and 3-D printing, one of a handful of genuinely transformative technologies to emerge in the past 10 years.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


600 gigabits per second

I wouldn't take much comfort in any analysis that points to the amount of data as somehow problematic to deal with. Use of this system would be tightly focused on a person or event of interest, with the vast majority of data going uncollected or at least unreviewed.

Honestly, the only thing that I'm comforted by is the knowledge that drones are comparatively easy to build and deploy, so I see a lot of potential for privacy groups to deploy drones that take out other drones either physically, or more likely, by messing up the data feeds.
posted by odinsdream at 11:05 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else kind of shocked that inexpensive consumer-available drones haven't replaced the paparazzi yet?
posted by trackofalljades at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Only 20 years ago, this was considered dystopian fear-mongering.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


30 years ago, charlie.
posted by Sleeper at 11:15 AM on February 3, 2013


I always carry an FJH-18AA as my second weapon and shoot these down as soon as they apprear. So, no worries people.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:17 AM on February 3, 2013


Scariness aside, I love that it's made of 368 cell phone cameras.
posted by supercres at 11:19 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funny, nothing has happened to me yet. And, indeed, the Doctrine of Open Fields has only been around for 4 centuries.

The private should not be swallowed by the public. But equally, the public should not be followed by the private. People want their privacy to follow themselves about the commons. That destroys privacy. For privacy to exist, there must also exist a commons where people are counting on observation to allow them to engage in activities made possible by the public square.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:24 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oops my bad. Let's call that a typo.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:24 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Time for some Stealth Wear.
posted by NoMich at 11:27 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


So if I surfed freecycle long enough and obtained 368 broken iPhones, set them up in an array and brought them to, say, a Mt. Elden just outside of Flagstaff, AZ, I could watch all of Flagstaff on my big Minority-Report-style computer?
posted by not_on_display at 11:29 AM on February 3, 2013


If you need me, I'll be the guy wearing a shrubbery whenever he's outside. For the rest of my life.

The next gen cameras feature unique shrub shadow tracking so you're still toast!
posted by Burhanistan at 11:32 AM on February 3, 2013


I went to look up the Doctrine of Open Fields and found this fun fact!

While open fields are not protected by the Fourth Amendment, the curtilage, or outdoor area immediately surrounding the home, may be protected. Courts have treated this area as an extension of the house and as such subject to all the privacy protections afforded a person’s home (unlike a person's open fields) under the Fourth Amendment. An area is curtilage if it "harbors the intimate activity associated with the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life."[7] Courts make this determination by examining "the proximity of the area claimed to be curtilage to the home, whether the area is included within an enclosure surrounding the home, the nature of the uses to which the area is put, and the steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by people passing by."[8

I'm sure there's some kind of weasely way we lost all our rights to that privacy due to the government's increased ability to exploit the third dimension, but glibly dropping a legal reference that doesn't appear wholly to apply into a thread as if we're all just ignorant peasants for finding this creepy is not playing the game, either. It's nice that a (IIRC government lawyer) doesn't feel concerned about the possibility of unlimited government surveillance, but the rest of us didn't sign up for that life.
posted by winna at 11:33 AM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


And, indeed, the Doctrine of Open Fields has only been around for 4 centuries.

Fine, but can you acknowledge the possibility that ubiquitous surveillance plus powerful data-mining makes this a qualitatively different situation, and that therefore existing thought on the matter of privacy may need retooling?
posted by invitapriore at 11:35 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah --- the "half the size of Manhattan" link mentions the current PBS/NOVA program: Rise of The Drones. [Full Episode | 52:52] and also links to the segment regarding the 1.8 gigapixel ARGUS-IS drone camera.

I recommend watching it.
posted by ericb at 11:38 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does XKCD have a graph where penis references on internet comment threads dramatically increase as a newsworthy metric approaches a certain number of magically perverted inches? Because, you know, it might just be a thing.

Anyway, Kyllo v. United States still stands so your 4th Amendment rights are defended against advances in technology (like with the linked anti-thermal-imaging fashion above) but to a certain extent. Basically, in the future you'll be confined to an extremely limited space in which to conduct clandestine, off-the-record activities. The second you leave your residence, the drones hovering overhead in combination with not-so-far-off big data algorithms would start tracking your whereabouts and begin flagging for unusual activity. A synergistic usage of this is still a ways off into the future but we're a hell of a lot closer to creating Orwell's worst-case scenario than we are putting a base on the moon if that tells you anything.
posted by dubusadus at 11:47 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Time for some Stealth Wear.

See also: CV Dazzle, wherein the weird costume designs of last decade's scifi blockbusters may in fact come to be practically useful.
posted by odinsdream at 11:51 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


DIY Drones.

Make no mistake, everyone will be connected, cataloged and photographed in the future.

The future is anything happening from this moment on.

Oops, this moment. Carry on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:51 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I work on storage systems that can handle 600 Gb/s throughput over many parallel network LAN connections but handling that much data wirelessly would be a nice trick.
posted by octothorpe at 11:52 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is my understanding that there isn't much question regarding the legality of this. The surveillance is covered under the open field doctrine.
posted by humanfont at 11:53 AM on February 3, 2013


600 gigabits per second

Unless they've invented a new kind of spread-spectrum magic, I'd speculate they're using some a sort very high frequency (microwave or up) line-of-sight link. Possibly even lasers to transmit the data. High bandwidth, hard to intercept; the only difficulties would be shorter range, attenuation due to weather, and you'd have to be able to precisely direct the beam to a ground receiver from a flying platform.
posted by Wemmick at 12:01 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


t's nice that a (IIRC government lawyer) doesn't feel concerned about the possibility of unlimited government surveillance, but the rest of us didn't sign up for that life.

Please, no ad hominem attacks, especially ones not factually correct.

Unlimited survellance? Puh-leeze. There is no unlimited surveillance. No drone is allowed to look into your windows. Even the most conservative justice feels the home is sacred see: Kyllo v. U.S.

The fact is this--there are common areas and there are private areas. In the common spaces, the police are allowed to view a person selling drugs, or leveling a revolver at someone. Not only do we allow that, our society as a whole relies on observation in public spaces. If in the name of privacy a police officer cannot arrest a person they see in public, what is the point of law enforcement? The mere addition of technology is supposed to change everything? An officer can't use eyeglasses? Binoculars? A SWAT team at that bunker in Arkansas where that gun nut has a kid can't sneak video cable to see where he is and check up on the kid?

For there to be privacy, there must be open space where the government can observe. Without that line privacy will be destroyed. Without that line, government would seek observation in the home much more readily, because that space would be as public (or private) as any other space.

Instead, I prefer our system. There are places considered public and places considered private. Those private spaces need a warrant for observation for crime detection/prosecution purposes. Persons know when they are in public, they are subject to observation. The needs of the community to prosecute crime in a free society are balanced against the needs of individuals who want the privacy that a free society needs. The idea that the government controlled by our representatives cannot view things in the spaces of our society we have designated as public seems insane to me.

However, I agree with the idea that many drones in the sky could cause tremendous air safety issues and that this is our most immediate need.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:15 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah crap. I saw this on NCIS three or four seasons ago. Only they used a satellite. It ain't the camera you need to worry about, it's Gibbs.

Google maps have a picture of RedBud unloading groceries out of my HHR, and it even shows our old tomcat, Bubba, sitting under our little apple tree licking his paw.

Now when I go outside, I look up and wave. I want to be sure they know I'm friendly. If they need to know any more than that, they can check my cash-register receipts.
posted by mule98J at 12:18 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


A functional scramble suit is looking increasingly necessary for those of you in North America.

Ironically, the scramble suit idea, from Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly was used by undercover police to protect their identities.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:21 PM on February 3, 2013


For there to be privacy, there must be open space where the government can observe.

I agree that this has traditionally been our understanding, or conception. But that concept was premised on government resources being limited. The abilities (1) to observe everywhere, and (2) to record those observations indefinitely, result from new and emerging technologies. I seriously do not intend to derail into a Second Amendment conversation, but this is not unlike how one conception of "arms" was transformed by technological advances into something with totally, completely different capabilities.

It's a tricky issue. And on the other side, is our societal expectation of privacy evolving with technology in a way that presumes these new capabilities? After all, the average person's reaction to having a (private citizen's) camera pointed in their direction has evolved considerably in ten years.
posted by cribcage at 12:28 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Somehow I am reminded of the short story "The Dead Past" by Isaac Asimov.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:32 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The entertaining usage case would be to combine the drone's high-resolution spatial data with the deep digital signals-intelligence database that the NSA is maintaining in Utah. By cross-referencing everyone's digital trails with their physical actions, you can predict intentions and track outlier behaviors. Flagged!
posted by Mercaptan at 12:33 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the common spaces, the police are allowed to view a person selling drugs, or leveling a revolver at someone. Not only do we allow that, our society as a whole relies on observation in public spaces. If in the name of privacy a police officer cannot arrest a person they see in public, what is the point of law enforcement? The mere addition of technology is supposed to change everything?

So, if there was a police officer in every public space, everywhere 24 hrs/day... that's like one of the 2nd amendment arguments where you pretend nothing has changed in 200 yrs and that's why we all are free to own any kind of weapon.... because, you know, militias.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:34 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth: In the common spaces, the police are allowed to view a person selling drugs, or leveling a revolver at someone. Not only do we allow that, our society as a whole relies on observation in public spaces. If in the name of privacy a police officer cannot arrest a person they see in public, what is the point of law enforcement? The mere addition of technology is supposed to change everything?

ennui.bz: So, if there was a police officer in every public space, everywhere 24 hrs/day... that's like one of the 2nd amendment arguments where you pretend nothing has changed in 200 yrs...


In fact, the Supreme Court recently ruled on the whole issue of "technology-enabled state intrusion of privacy in otherwise public spaces" by (re?)making warrantless GPS tracking of vehicles illegal. The argument was that, while people can expect that they may be observed in a public space, they rightly don't expect to be tracked 24-7 without cause. Moreover, the emergence of this technology represents a fundamental new threat to the fourth amendment, as it basically makes it cheap enough for the government to track *everyone*. Expect that case to be cited when someone inevitably takes the government to court for Drone surveillance.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:46 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dazzle camouflage has been suggested as a countermeasure to the pattern recognition systems in the software.
posted by humanfont at 1:06 PM on February 3, 2013


Sorta feel like at this point you could construct neoliberal op-eds in defense of any dystopian science fiction setting up to and including A Canticle For Leibowitz probably.
posted by furiousthought at 1:06 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree that this has traditionally been our understanding, or conception. But that concept was premised on government resources being limited. The abilities (1) to observe everywhere, and (2) to record those observations indefinitely, result from new and emerging technologies.

Creating storage space for 600 gigabytes per second per drone, and then the manhours to sift through them, are decidedly limiting factors.
posted by kafziel at 1:09 PM on February 3, 2013


Creating storage space for 600 gigabytes per second per drone, and then the manhours to sift through them, are decidedly limiting factors.

Not if the desired result is a vector path for all interesting objects (cars, people, protest groups, etc.) within a spacial area, created by automatic processes like "track the thing with this license plate and all the blobs that approach or depart from it." The rest of the data doesn't need to be analyzed, or in fact even stored.
posted by odinsdream at 1:14 PM on February 3, 2013


CV Dazzle camouflage seems doomed. Of all the examples I've seen I can still tell there's a person underneath all the funny makeup and hair, and maybe even recognize who it is. So if I can do it, a machine can eventually be taught to do it too.

I guess everybody wears a balaclava? But then there's gait analysis. So I guess we all have to get around on Segways and shroud that with a floor length cylindrical mirror?
posted by delicious-luncheon at 1:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not if the desired result is a vector path for all interesting objects (cars, people, protest groups, etc.) within a spacial area, created by automatic processes like "track the thing with this license plate and all the blobs that approach or depart from it." The rest of the data doesn't need to be analyzed, or in fact even stored.

I was thinking that too. It looks like it already detects people and vehicles, so that would be fairly easy. Furthermore, most of the background should be relatively stationary if the drone is slow and high enough, so I imagine the imagery might be quite compressible.
posted by Wemmick at 1:20 PM on February 3, 2013


"Ironmouth: Unlimited survellance? Puh-leeze. There is no unlimited surveillance. No drone is allowed to look into your windows. Even the most conservative justice feels the home is sacred see: Kyllo v. U.S."

Yet I can cast my mind back a few years and remember the NSA wiretapping America pretty much wholesale, blatantly ignoring the FISA laws. Obama was running to be the president and banging his drum about how it was wrong, and people would be held responsible, yet amnesties were granted, illegalities were swept under the rug.

So while your conservative judge might not go along with the idea, that doesn't really seem to make one iota of difference when the people doing the surveillance aren't held to the laws that govern the rest of us.
posted by Static Vagabond at 1:37 PM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I see this more as an extension of the datamining dragnet that the NSA has created from their wholesale wiretaps.

It's not that this tech will be used on a specific person, it is that everything will be monitored and recorded in case it becomes pertinent in the future.

I wonder when the term "retroactive warrant" will gain popular use.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:44 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


The tech is cool and I can't wait for it to trickle down to civilian use. A filmmaker friend was getting paranoid about this, but how soon until he can get a personal camera drone like the one in William Gibson novels?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:47 PM on February 3, 2013


With a camera that sensitive, a reasonably low powered laser would absolutely destroy the optics inside. Still.... Petrifying.
posted by Freen at 2:10 PM on February 3, 2013


With a camera that sensitive, a reasonably low powered laser would absolutely destroy the optics inside. Still.... Petrifying.

It has 385 lenses. And it's flying 20,000 feet up. You better have a hell of a targetic system.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:37 PM on February 3, 2013


No drone is allowed to look into your windows. Even the most conservative justice feels the home is sacred

Given the US is alleged to have monitored the calls of private citizens on a massive scale without the supposedly required warrants or judicial oversight (FISA, put in place after the Nixon administration used the state to track his political opponents), and that the US is not subject to the Geneva Convention, a treaty the US signed, on torture being forbidden, and on the rights of US citizens to assemble and protest ("free speech zones"), and on prosecutorial discretion to threaten a tresspasser with multiple felony counts and decades behind bars (for entering a broom closet on a campus that has sanctioned breaking in and exploring for over a century)

I guess I what I am saying is that, between the time a seemingly illegal thing happens, and the Supremes review it, there are a lot of ways that illegal thing can either translate into no penalties whatsoever, or can result in academic remedies for the people affected.
posted by zippy at 2:51 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Unlimited survellance? Puh-leeze. There is no unlimited surveillance. No drone is allowed to look into your windows. Even the most conservative justice feels the home is sacred see: Kyllo v. U.S.

Reading the link dubusandus provides which seems to indicate that is mostly a Fourth Amendment restriction, is this really in any way true for "no drone" at all, or just drones operated directly by or at the behest of a government agency?

Or can a drone that is technically operated by a private company just leave its 1800 megapixel cameras recording all the time as it flies around, offer access to that data as a service to the government and anyone else who pays for it, and then basically any government agency can use it for just about any purpose they want, just not as evidence in court?
posted by XMLicious at 3:08 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unlimited survellance? Puh-leeze. There is no unlimited surveillance.

We've had this discussion on drones and domestic surveillance many times before.

And in so many of these discussions, the concerns of privacy advocates are dismissed, often with derisive comments like the above.

For example, back in 2011, we had a discussion about domestic drones with weapons. It was said that, "First, it is impossible with current technology to aim a firearm bullet from a drone. I really don't see how it would be possible."

Engineers disagreed. They talked about the rapidly advancing field of computer vision, including image stabilization, pattern recognition and machine learning.

The response? "Seriously, you guys are way too black helo for me. 9/11 Controlled Demolition!"

Less than a a year later in 2012, we saw the Department of Homeland Security give the green-light for weaponized drones to be used by local domestic law enforcement. The specific drone in that case was the Vanguard Defense Industries' Shadowhawk UAV/drone, with the ability to add-on shotguns, tazers and grenade launchers.

Same goes for the TSA full-body scanners. Statements like, "but they aren't violating the 4th Amendment to search you and your possessions before boarding an aircraft, because you are free not to get on the plane and not be searched." were countered with arguments that airports are only the beginning, it will be expanded.

And then we saw the introduction of VIPR teams searching trains and buses, and now we're seeing them at football games.


Concerns about material support for terrorist laws being used against supporters of WikiLeaks. Dismissed. Then he was declared a terrorist.

In many of these threads, opponents to domestic use of drones are shouted down because they do not understand the legal concept of the commons and public space. Appeals to authority are used. Usually the refrain is, "you're not a lawyer, I work in this field everyday." I'm not singling out just Ironmouth. This is used just as commonly used in Intellectual Property posts and other threads.

Given the above history, I would like to say that it is actually the technology professionals who have a better understanding of the potential use of drones and public surveillance, and could be considered experts on these topics. They certainly have the better track record of predicting the outcomes.

But, and this is important, we can't dismiss contributions of non-technology professionals. We need a vigorous public discussion about these issues, because that are critical to our future. And that includes contributions from lawyers and law enforcement. I've called out Ironmouth's profession before, and I now acknowledge that's a shitty thing to do, because defense lawyers perform one of the most important roles in our society.

But when it comes to historical accuracy, one side seems to have a better predictive record. And I would argue it's because they understand the technological potentials better. We must account for not just how laws put in place will be used with current technology, we must look at how they will be used with future technology.

Like I've said before on here, once the legal and hardware infrastructure for surveillance is in place, upgrading the software will be easy. And the possibilities there are endless.
posted by formless at 4:05 PM on February 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


In many of these threads, opponents to domestic use of drones are shouted down because they do not understand the legal concept of the commons and public space. Appeals to authority are used. Usually the refrain is, "you're not a lawyer, I work in this field everyday."

I'm a lawyer, I work in this field everyday, and everyday I am horrified by the advances in this technology and the proposed uses, let alone the actual uses.

But it's not the technology, it's the people. The technology has myriad awesome, beneficial-to-society uses, like fighting wildfires. But the go-to civil use for governments all over the world appears to be panopticon surveillance, and it scares the hell out of me. Especially when taken in the context of advances in facial and other biometrics recognition.

The legislative reform process takes years - it just can't keep up with the technological developments. But even if it could, many supposed liberal democracies are focused on 'security' at the expense of privacy and other civil rights. And, in the end, that's the problem.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:40 PM on February 3, 2013


Speaking of the TSA at football games, Reddit had this photoset of part of the security setup from last year: The unseen security at the previous Superbowl
posted by rebent at 4:54 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't it be ironic if the future *was* everybody wearing the same bland garment, all to screw with the panopticon of modern society.

Hmmm.

The sweatshirt hood can work much like a cobra hood, put up to intimidate others. But even more important is its ability to create a shroud of anonymity. This came in handy for at least two types of people operating in hip-hop’s urban breeding ground: graffiti writers and so-called stick-up kids, or muggers. Wearing a hoodie meant you were keeping a low profile, and perhaps up to something illegal.
posted by dhartung at 4:58 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The unseen security at the previous Superbowl

Please tell me that's a photoshop hoax, jesus christ.
posted by odinsdream at 5:07 PM on February 3, 2013


Deadspin says it looks like standard police security
posted by rebent at 5:11 PM on February 3, 2013


It's standard operating procedure to have an invisible law enforcement presence at any high-profile event, let alone one with the attendance and attention the Super Bowl receives. And remember, there are all kinds of politicians and other assorted rich people around. You never know what could happen, though the imagination conjures up increasingly insane and horrifying scenarios, and also the criminally underrated Black Sunday. It's just never a bad idea to have a sniper rifle around.
No, no... it is a bad idea. What. Jesus.
posted by odinsdream at 5:26 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember watching the Times Square New Year's Eve telecast in like 2003 and we were ruefully laughing at the announcers, who were cheerfully pointing out the rooftop sniper teams that were "keeping us safe." And then, you could sort of blame a certain level of top-down pressure and being-part-of-the-times, right?
posted by furiousthought at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2013


Given the above history, I would like to say that it is actually the technology professionals who have a better understanding of the potential use of drones and public surveillance, and could be considered experts on these topics. They certainly have the better track record of predicting the outcomes.

I've worked in robotics, computer vision/object recognition, and hobbyist drones. I saw the RFPs from DARPA for "persistent surveillance" software to process these gigapixel video feeds in 2007 and began to get a clearer picture of what the future of ubiquitous flying robots was going to look like. Civilians shooting down drones is a fantasy--a Global Hawk can fly above 60,000 feet. You won't even know it's there, let alone be able to aim a laser at it.

I'm not an expert, but I follow the relevant fields and I know something about current capabilities and the trends in what's possible, and I'm pretty concerned that our society is going to experience signficant upheaval over this for the next few decades, and the technological progress is still picking up speed.

But these look fun: http://news.sky.com/story/1047004/mini-drones-army-deploys-tiny-helicopters
posted by jjwiseman at 6:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can also get your own tiny camera drone 'copter - which live streams video to your smart phone and obeys voice commands - for $50.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:09 PM on February 3, 2013


His thoughts were red thoughts, that drone is still under development, but you can put together some code to do the same thing yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhBa11gdbeU
posted by jjwiseman at 6:18 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also saw on the local news last night that laws are being considered to make pointing a laser at aircraft illegal.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:33 PM on February 3, 2013


Frogs in the big pot.
They heat the water slowly.
Croak.
posted by mule98J at 9:30 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it SCORPION STARE capable, though?
posted by BungaDunga at 9:53 PM on February 3, 2013


Is it SCORPION STARE capable, though?

You're not cleared for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. Security breach! Countermeasures have been activated.

[Cue zombie sounds, amidst the alarm klaxon]
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:24 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


the one up-side of all this is that they hopefully haven't taken into account a solar superstorm

which does mean we'll lose all our shit but hey
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:57 AM on February 4, 2013


is it bad that no-petrol industrial collapse is actually starting to seem more like euthanasia than catastrophe
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:59 AM on February 4, 2013


> is it bad that no-petrol industrial collapse is actually starting to seem more like euthanasia than catastrophe

For about as long as others have been going "Help us, Obi-Wan" I've been going "Help us, Peak Oil, youre our only hope." But now it looks as if, though it will happen eventually, eventually isn't going to be soon enough to be much help.
posted by jfuller at 6:57 AM on February 4, 2013


Also saw on the local news last night that laws are being considered to make pointing a laser at aircraft illegal.

That's a perfectly good idea, since lasers can cause extreme visual distractions for pilots trying to land. By the time a consumer laser beam reaches a plane the beam is no longer a tiny dot of light.
posted by odinsdream at 7:13 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also saw on the local news last night that laws are being considered to make pointing a laser at aircraft illegal.

That's a perfectly good idea, since lasers can cause extreme visual distractions for pilots trying to land. By the time a consumer laser beam reaches a plane the beam is no longer a tiny dot of light....



This is not good enough. By the time you are arrested and executed, the damage will already have been done. They must arrest you before you point the laser. That's what the drones are for. When they see you pointing the laser, or an object that seems to be a laser, but which could be a laser cleverly disguised as your finger, they stun you with...oh, say.. a few dozen rounds from the 20mm cannon.
posted by mule98J at 9:26 AM on February 4, 2013


It's already illegal in the U.S. to point lasers at a plane or its flight path: U.S.C. TITLE 18, CHAPTER 2, Sec. 39A. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:15 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fact, the Supreme Court recently ruled on the whole issue of "technology-enabled state intrusion of privacy in otherwise public spaces" by (re?)making warrantless GPS tracking of vehicles illegal. The argument was that, while people can expect that they may be observed in a public space, they rightly don't expect to be tracked 24-7 without cause. Moreover, the emergence of this technology represents a fundamental new threat to the fourth amendment, as it basically makes it cheap enough for the government to track *everyone*. Expect that case to be cited when someone inevitably takes the government to court for Drone surveillance.

that's perfectly consistent with the doctrine of open fields. The government can prosecute you, if it witnesses you commit a crime by chance while observing. It cannot, however, track you 100% of the time personally without your consent.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:39 AM on February 4, 2013


NBC News -- EXCLUSIVE: Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans.

The 16-page DOJ memo [PDF].
posted by ericb at 8:10 PM on February 4, 2013


'Very, Very Dangerous': Experts Fear Implications Of Drone Memo -- "Experts say White House memo dangerously expands the definition of national self-defense and of what constitutes an imminent attack."
posted by ericb at 12:59 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other surveillance news: DHS Watchdog OKs ‘Suspicionless’ Seizure of Electronic Devices Along Border
posted by homunculus at 12:12 PM on February 10, 2013


Report: Ex-Cop Christopher Dorner Is Now a Target for Drones
posted by homunculus at 12:42 PM on February 10, 2013


The Logic of Surveillance
posted by homunculus at 3:58 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


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