The use of drones in skies over the United States would increase dramatically if a bill passed by Congress last week is signed into law by President Obama, as expected, giving pause to privacy advocates who say they could be used to spy on Americans.
Besides paving the way for more use of unmmaned drones, the FAA Reauthorization Act also requires the Federal Aviation Administration to develop new regulations for the testing and licensing of commercial drones by 2015.
Privacy advocates worry that putting more drones in the skies will only lead to increased unauthorized surveillance of American citizens by police and private companies as well, The Washington Times reported.
“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities,” Steven Aftergood, head of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, told the paper.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group, also has expressed concerns about the heightened surveillance capabilities more drones in the skies would produce.
A spokesman for the organization, attorney Jennifer Lynch, said the EFF is “concerned about the implications for surveillance by government agencies.”
The new legislation is part of “a huge push by lawmakers and the defense sector to expand the use of drones,” she added, the Times said.
The FAA projects that 30,000 drones could be in U.S. skies by 2020.
Some U.S. government agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, already use drones as part of their surveillance programs. Its nine drones are principally for border and counternarcotics surveillance under four long-term FAA certificates, the Times said.
© 2012 Newsroom America.