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Thursday, November 8, 2012

S.F. Group Sues Over Predator Drone Privacy Rules

Posted By on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 1:59 PM

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Do thoughts of miniature helicopters hovering and peeking into your bedroom keep you up at night? Maybe you are worried about Uncle Sam seeing what you do when nobody is watching?

Well, so is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital civil liberties group that filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security hoping to find out who has access to the agency's unmanned Predator drones.

See also: Alameda County Sheriff Just Might Employ Unmanned Drones to Catch Criminals

The drones are currently being used to patrol our borders, but they've also been loaned out to North Dakota sheriffs, the Texas Rangers, and the Bureau of Land Management.

They might also soon be in use by the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. If Sheriff Greg Ahern does decide to use unmanned drones, his department will be the first in California to do so.

The drones can gather a lot of information; they're armed with cameras, infrared, heat sensors and radar -- and the EFF wants to know how and when law enforcement uses them to gather that info. "This information doesn't feel particularly secret," says Jennifer Lynch, EFF attorney.

The EFF filed Freedom of Information Act requests, but Homeland Security has not yet responded, according to the group. 

"We've seen bits and pieces of information on CBP's [Customs and Border Protection] Predator drones, but Americans deserve the full story," says Lynch. "The public needs to know more about how and why these Predator drones are being used to watch U.S. citizens."

The EFF has already sued the Federal Aviation Administration, asking for the latest rules about flying drones. The agency did agree to hand over drone data, and has posted much of the requested Freedom of Information Act on its website.

We wanted to find out what Homeland Security had to say, but nobody over there returned our calls.

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