Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

After Transforming Warfare, Drones Set to Enter the Domestic Scene

BY Julia Wetherell | Monday, February 4 2013

A commercially available Quadrocopter drone (Wikimedia Commons)

A lot of modern conveniences have shadowy military roots — think the Internet and the microwave oven – but could drones soon be making an appearance at backyard BBQs and small-town police stations near you? Lev Grossman writes in Time this week that a domestic drone future is on the horizon for the US — and that it may arrive before the government or civilians can work out the ethical and constitutional implications of their use.

Drone warfare on the northwest border of Pakistan — where 362 strikes have been made since 2004, over 300 under the Obama administration alone — has created unease and outrage in the international community and in the US for its killing of civilians. Yet with the Air Force currently prioritizing training for drone operators over fighter pilots, this is likely the future face of American warfare.

Grossman writes that cheap, ever-evolving drone technology will soon seduce non-military sectors — from agriculture to real estate to pizza delivery. Law enforcement agencies may be among the first to benefit, if they aren’t already; last spring the Electronic Frontier Foundation successfully sued the FAA to release the names of groups holding domestic drone licenses, including may local police departments. Grossman quotes a congressional report on domestic drone use that says the “sophistication” of their surveillance abilities “may remove drones from [the] traditional Fourth Amendment framework” that protects citizens from unwarranted search. As structure of the seen and unseen, Grossman says the drone landscape of the future fits well into a tech paradigm we’re already pretty used to:

It's roughly analogous to interacting with an anonymous commenter on a blog: you're dealing with someone who is both present and absent, who has decided that what they say or do will have consequences for you but not for them. Drones bring that asymmetrical dynamic out into the real world: a drone is the physical avatar of the virtual presence of a real person.

The anonymous commenter allegory works well; at least four alleged drone operators outed themselves as Redditors last week when they did a Q&A for members of the site; one compared his job to Call of Duty, which, like many video games, is already acting as a training ground for American soldiers.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

More