Do Drones Help Democratize Surveillance?

A University of San Diego (USD) professor has just published The Good Drone: How Social Movements Democratize Surveillance. He tells a local newspaper that drones (as well as other aerial technologies like balloons, satellites, and even kites) actually help effect social change.

“That was my litmus test,” Choi-Fitzpatrick continues. “Can I, or other people like me, use this technology for good? The thing that ties them all together is that they’re all affordable and deployable by the public without regulatory oversight.”

In order to prove this point, Choi-Fitzpatrick points to how the vast majority of the public uses drones for altruistic causes such as documenting human rights abuses, anti-poaching advocacy, and researching climate change research. With help from his students at USD, he meticulously scraped the internet, logging incident reports and media stories on negative drone usage. He says the data proved that, more often than not, that “the smallest categories were for spying and crime….”

It’s his hope that “The Good Drone” will help the public understand the benefit of the technology before rushing to have them banned for public use… “The government already has surveillance drones monitoring protests and I think it’s important that news agencies, the public and social movements also have drones to tell their side of the story as well. It’s only imagery and video that will tell the full story.”
The article points out that while the book will be published Tuesday, it will also be available as a free, downloadable, open access PDF. And the author’s original manuscript, uploaded to PubPub’s Open Peer Review platform, is already available online.

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