Nicholas West | Activist Post | Source URL
Police departments around the U.S. continue doing their best to acquire drones for a range of uses. This move is buoyed by the fact that Homeland Security is funding their arrival into local communities.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire is the latest to receive federal funds to the tune of $75K for “one large drone, two medium drones and a few small drones,” according to a report from the Portsmouth Patch.
As I’ve reported previously, there has been scattered resistance to drone plans in many of the locations where they have appeared — most notably in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Chicago where some of the details about drone use have not been fully transparent.
The Portsmouth PD, I guess to their credit, appears to be offering full disclosure about embracing as many applications as possible to cover their residents with full-time surveillance. Statements are consistent with the much-touted “policing in the 21st century” … so much so, that it reads like dystopian fiction.
Portsmouth police will be implementing drones for anything from searches for suspects, to crowd control at big events.
“It’s the future of law enforcement,” said Portsmouth Police Lt. Chris Cummings. “We put an eye in the sky where we normally wouldn’t have one.”
“We don’t know exactly what we’re going to want until we get it,” said Cummings.
Cummings said the training that is required to operate the drones is extensive and technical. Officers will need to study anything from weather patterns to airport operations.
“It truly is a game-changer,” said Cummings.
As I continue to highlight, the pervasive surveillance of public space is often the concern that gets the most attention, but it is the emerging applications and integration of drone data that should be far more troubling. In fact, the Portsmouth PD goes on to admit that there will be data collection — most times of fully innocent people — scooped up right alongside any legitimate investigation of crime scenes or suspects. But, not to worry, this data will only be retained for six months!
For any personal information the drones may collect accidentally during data gathering, Portsmouth has developed procedures where this information will be destroyed after 180 days unless it is needed for an official mission, said Cummings.
Once drone use is accepted by the public, this will only become more prevalent and more invasive. As Police Lt. Cummings aptly stated: “We put an eye in the sky.” This is exactly the name of a new program at Cambridge University that aims to detect signs of violence in real-time with drones.
The “Eye in the Sky” system, according to CNET, will use Parrot drones to identify “violent poses” in crowds. The system will be powered by biometric recognition and artificial intelligence, as seen in the video below:
It’s clear that the public concern about drones must shift from what they are being used for now, to what they will be used for in the very near future.