Students in the summer offering of my Introduction to American Politics course were assigned to write their final paper on one of three contemporary political debates in the United States – the legalization of marijuana, access to guns, and the use of civilian drones. You can find the discussion about legalizing marijuana here and gun control here.
This week, my students discuss the use of civilian drones in the United States. When students in the class were asked in a survey where or not it is acceptable for the American government to monitor communications from American citizens, 36% agreed that this is acceptable, 53% disagreed, and 11% reported not knowing. As the responses suggest, Americans know very little about drone use, government policy, or their rights.
Heavily Regulate Drone Use
Response 1, Taylor P*
In recent decades drone use has increased dramatically. Drones have a wide variety of applications for individuals and the government such as, “environmental monitoring, tracking of livestock and wildlife, measurement of meteorological and geophysical phenomena, and observation of large-scale human constructions such as buildings, energy infrastructure such as electricity networks and gas and water pipelines, and road-, air- and sea-traffic”(Clarke 2014, 286). Although many people believe that these applications have positive impacts, others believe drone surveillance is detrimental to the privacy of people and infringes upon our Fourth Amendment rights. Some people are convinced that drones are harmful to our civil liberties by disproportionately targeting minorities and “other usual suspects” (Wright 2012,184). Others believe drones are actively hostile towards individuals. No matter which argument you agree with, more regulations need to be implemented to restrict drone use.
While the debate about drone use is ongoing, David Wright (2012) takes the stance that while drones can be useful, it is more important to provide privacy to individuals. Privacy is a major concern due to the fact that drones are targeting their surveillance upon the “already marginalized populations” to monitor their whereabouts and activities (Wright 2012, 194). According to Wright, drones do not have regulations or laws in place that effectively limit the activity of drones. The Fourth Amendment does not “protect already marginalized individuals and populations from disproportionate surveillance by Unmanned Aircraft Systems” (Wright 2012, 193). Specifically, drone surveillance has been used to single out “the poor, people of color and anti-government protesters” when monitoring large crowds, such as in drone surveillance monitored political rallies in New York and Washington D.C. (Wright 2012, 188). Wright’s stance on the position of drone use is that drones can effectively help make the United States a safer and better place; however, in order to make citizens feel safe with the use of drones, we need to regulate what drones can do to protect the privacy of individuals and keep individuals safe from discriminatory practices. Continue reading