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Opening Arguments

Spy in the sky

Rich Lowry says we should just get over our silly panic about drones spying on us all the time:

As for police drones randomly watching us as we innocently go about our business, this is not a novel phenomenon. Police do it all the time. It is called a patrol. They do it utilizing all manner of technology — on foot, on horseback, on bikes, in cars, and even on Segway scooters. So long as they are looking at us in public areas where we have no reasonable expectation of privacy, our liberty survives intact.

Drones will no doubt raise novel issues under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. They will require rules. The same is true of any technology, of course. The Supreme Court held unanimously earlier this year that police can’t attach a GPS tracker on someone’s vehicle without a warrant. This isn’t reason to ban all use of GPS trackers by law enforcement. The fear of drones is, in part, the fear of the new — it is Luddism masquerading as civil libertarianism.

Drones are coming no matter what. They will be too inexpensive and too useful to ignore.

But it's precisely the point that drones are "too inexpensive and too useful." Anyone who's been paying attention to what's happening in the criminal justice system would have to be naive or an idiot or both to believe that abuses don't happen. And the easier it is to use something (and especially conceal its use), the more likely it will be abused. Our privacy is under attack from so many quarters these days that a concept like "reasonable expectation of privacy" sounds quaintly old-fashioned.

So, I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist on clinging to my privacy even in areas where previously there might have been "no reasonable expectation" of it, and, if you don't mind, I'll just stay in my panicked state for a while longer.