7 Privacy Threats the Constitution Can't Protect You Against
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Unmanned flying vehicles, a key part of the valiant effort to transform modern warfare into a video game, are likely to become increasingly common domestically. The FAA currently restricts the use of drones (with occasional exceptions) but that won't last long: Congress has instructed the agency to open six US test sites that will help establish rules for their routine use, according to Bloomberg.
Border agents already use drones to track activity on the border and even inside Mexico. Also, in December the LA Times reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection generously loaned out drones to police departments.
An ACLU report from December says that local law enforcement officials are pushing for domestic use of the new technology, as are drone manufacturers. As Glenn Greenwald points out, drone makers " continuously emphasize to investors and others that a major source of business growth for their drone products will be domestic, non-military use."
Right now drones range in size from giant planes to hummingbird-sized, the ACLU report says, with the technology improving all the time. Some can be operated by only one officer, and others by no one at all. The report points to all the sophisticated surveillance technology that can take flight on a drone, including night vision, video analytics ("smart" surveillance that can track activities, and with improvements in biometrics, specific people), massive zoom, and the creepy see-through imaging, currently in development.
7. Super drones that know who you are!
In September, Wired reported that the military has given out research grants to several companies to spruce up their drones with technology that lets them identify and track people on the move, or "tagging, tracking, and locating" (TTL). Noah Shachtman writes:
Perhaps the idea of spy drones already makes yournervous. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the notion of an unblinking, robotic eye in the sky that can watch your every move. If so, you may want to click away now. Because if the Army has its way, drones won’t just be able to look at what you do. They’ll be able to recognize your face — and track you, based on how you look. If the military machines assemble enough information, they might just be able to peer into your heart.
One company claims it can equip drones with facial recognition technology that lets them build a 3-D model of a face based on a 2-D image, which would then allow the drone to ID someone, even in a crowd. They also say that if they can get a close enough look, they can tell twins apart and reveal not only individuals' identity but their social networks, reports Wired. That's not all. Shachtman continues:
The Army also wants to identify potentially hostile behavior and intent, in order to uncover clandestine foes. Charles River Analytics is using its Army cash to build a so-called “Adversary Behavior Acquisition, Collection, Understanding, and Summarization (ABACUS)” tool. The system would integrate data from informants’ tips, drone footage, and captured phone calls. Then it would apply “a human behavior modeling and simulation engine” that would spit out “intent-based threat assessments of individuals and groups.” In other words: This software could potentially find out which people are most likely to harbor ill will toward the U.S. military or its objectives. Feeling nervous yet?
All of these technologies are either already integrated into daily life or coming down the pike. In Constitution 3.0, Jeffrey Rosen invited scholars and futurists to envision how current civil liberties protections would fare when faced with technologies of the future (not well). One chilling possibility highlighted in the book: What if Facebook and Google decided to archive and post footage from millions of surveillance cameras?