More than a third of Americans worry their privacy will suffer if drones like those used to spy on U.S. enemies overseas become the latest police tool for tracking suspected criminals at home, a new poll has revealed.
According to the Associated Press-National Constitution Center Poll, a significant minority, 36 percent, said that they “strongly oppose” or “somewhat oppose” police use of drones.
The poll found that nearly half of Americans, 44 percent, support allowing police forces inside the U.S. to use drones to assist police work.
When asked if they were concerned that police departments’ use of drones for surveillance might cause them to lose privacy, 35 percent of respondents said they were “extremely concerned” or “very concerned.”
An almost identical share, 36 percent, said they were “not too concerned” or “not concerned at all,” CBS News reports. The poll found that nearly 24 percent fell in the middle, saying they were “somewhat concerned” about a potential loss of personal privacy.
According to the report, Congress has directed the Federal Aviation Administration to come up with safety regulations that will clear the way for routine domestic use of unmanned aircraft within the next three years.
The government is under pressure from a wide range of interests to open U.S. skies to drones. Oil companies want them to monitor pipelines. Environmentalists want them to count sea lions on remote islands. Farmers want them to fly over crops with sensors that can detect which fields are wet and which need watering.
According to the report, but privacy advocates caution that drones equipped with powerful cameras, including the latest infrared cameras that can “see” through walls, listening devices and other information-gathering technology raise the specter of a surveillance society in which the activities of ordinary citizens are monitored and recorded by the authorities.