Alameda County considers use of drones

Drone (Farnborough Air Show 2006)In a move that has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the sheriff of Alameda County has announced his intentions of using unmanned drones as a mode of domestic surveillance. Located in California , Alameda County encompasses several cities of the state’s East Bay, including large metropolitan areas such as Oakland,Fremont, and Berkeley. The use of unmanned drones as surveillance mechanisms over domestic areas has been utilized in various states across the country, though Alameda County will be the first in California to adopt such measures.

Drones currently in use in Washington and Florida are extraordinary high-tech, with many capable of recording precise video in infrared, low-light, daytime, and nighttime levels. Controversy also surrounded the adoption of these technologies in Washington and Florida, though the efforts of many advocacy and citizen organizations have resulted in greater governmental accountability concerning the use of these drones. For instance, public pressure has influenced the Seattle police department to release policy records concerning the legal limitations imposed on unmanned aerial vehicles.

The use of drones raises questions of indiscriminate surveillance over large areas, and whether such methods of mass surveillance are contrary to reasonable expectations of privacy. However, generally, this is another example of an instance in which the law has not adequately caught up with technology. Public pressure will play an immense role in this ongoing conflict in California; just as advocacy groups in other states have pushed for increased transparency, similar groups in California must necessarily advocate in favor of increased justification and limitations on the use of surveillance drones.

While the sheriff has announced his intention of using these drones, it is unclear when exactly these surveillance measures will take effect.

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