Our Kingdom has an article by Stephen Graham, Professor of Cities and Society at Newcastle University, on the use of surveillance drones by British police forces. In his post he writes:
"Supported by Governments, these [drones] are working extremely hard to ensure that the deployment of aerial drones for policing purposes quickly saturates UK airspace and becomes completely normal and taken for granted."
Graham's article raises many serious ethical questions about the use of methods to control crime and questions whether, were these drones to gain widespread use, there are sufficient transparent regulatory systems in place to prevent law enforcement agencies from abusing radical extensions in their powers.
It is believed that, for example, most people would accept the use of identity cards, were that purely to prove their 'existence' - name, address and date of birth. What caused the opposition to their introduction, amongst the public, was the additional use to which identity cards could be put, coupled with the other agencies who would have access to the data- plus the additional data for that purpose it was proposed to include.
Likewise, it is felt that the public would accept these drones and their method of surveillance, were that use just to track perpetrators of crime in pursuit of their escape. What is not acceptable is the situation whereby these drones could be made airborne purely to watch the public at large in case one of them might commit a crime.
The use of drones or cctv must surely encroach on the basic right of anyone to go freely about their business with no interference from the State. Yet consider the situation whereby most service stations and some shops utilise cctv - which has proved useful in apprehending criminals who have committed robbery with violence. Again, it is believed that as a society we now accept this intrusion into our lives on the basis we can see the positive effects. Does this mean that, as Graham suggests, we would in time accept the continual monitoring of our movements by drones.
It is a very difficult to decide where the 'line' is to be drawn, but one fact does stand out above all others and that is it is not for politicians to make those decisions - it must be one that the people make for themselves, after which the politicians can then enact that decision into law. It is also undeniable that those decisions must be made on a local basis, local authority by local authority, and is yet another reason why law & order - and the type of law & order to be imposed - should also be decided on a 'local' basis.
Just another thought....................(one which, hopefully, James Higham will not find induces involuntary sleep)