Excuse Me While I Drone

It’s true, I was slightly terrified when I saw a video of smart flying robots in lecture on Tuesday. I did not, however, run for the hills. Instead, I pondered the not-so-ethical uses these little buzzing creatures could possess. It’s scary enough that nations are already developing and harboring nuclear weapons, but when these smart little unmanned drones are added to the mix, all hell could break loose. They’re small which means they’re easily transported without detection and they have the ability to record and track areas with scary accuracy. It’s obvious these bugs are advanced and would be useful in combat situations, so someone is bound to use them. In fact, they already are.

But the journalism implications are far greater. As a profession, our ethics are what make us credible. And these nifty cameras certainly toe the line. Sure, it’s really cool to think that you can get an accurate image of a protest or riot without putting yourself in danger, but if this technology has the capability of seeing things that are often behind barriers, people start to wonder if there’s a drone above their head.

Americans enjoy their privacy, and while our privacy is more important to us than the privacy of say, Iraqis, a lot of people would still whistle blow on a news outlet that used a drone to peer into the private lives of people abroad. Human rights’ groups and right to privacy activists would raise a stink if any organization were to so blatantly ignore the rights of human beings, especially if it were an American organization supposedly known for touting ethics. But the benefits of using such a device are tempting. Policemen and businesses are already vying for their share in the drone epidemic, and especially in the case of the police, these benefits seem to outweigh the bad. Apprehending criminals is made easier by drone technology, and business farmers would be able to view their crops from above for a relatively low cost. So what’s to stop them?

Ethics, that beautiful word, yes. Commercial uses may be innocent enough, but it only takes one bad apple in the whole bunch to use the technology for less than honest reasons for it to become a problem. Releasing these bad boys on the market means that, well, they’ll be on the market. And we all know once something’s in the market place, there’s no turning back. Everyone will get their hands on one, because let’s be honest, they’re pretty cool. But that means that journalists could obtain one, and other, more malicious persons. This may all sound pessimistic, but it’s bound to happen. There are laws in place about gun licensing and possession, but look at how many illegal guns are out in the market right now; regulation is bound to be broken because the temptation is too high.

As far as journalism is concerned, these gadgets should stay out. The technology is incredibly effective and smart, but it’s dangerous and prying. There’s a reason why people aren’t allowed to just fly over any piece of land they so choose. And since these bugs fly, I’d say they should be subject to the same scrutiny. Remember, no one likes a” Peeping Tom”.

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