Thursday, 26 February 2015

More drone hysteria

A while back everyone lost their minds when a drunken pilot crashed a drone on the White House grounds.  Now there’s fear and loathing over drones being flown over Paris. OVER TWO NIGHTS! As a fully tin-foiled privacy advocate, people usually expect me to be against drones on principle.  They could peep in our windows! They could throw bombs at us!

They could, but I have a hard time getting excited by drones.  That’s mostly due to my usual concern that the privacy bargains we make tend to be bad ones.  Threats are often misunderstood and counter-measures not always effective.  Much of the time, we don’t know what other security or privacy threats the counter-measures will inevitably introduce.

In the case of drones I’m more concerned that banning them in various spaces is a temptation for those spaces to be abused by authorities.  For example, it would be enormously tempting, wouldn’t it, for an authority to ban drones flying over protests or otherwise observing the actions of police.  It seems quite unlikely that governments are suddenly worried about drones peeping in our windows when they’re otherwise obsessed with collecting every snippet of information about us that they can.

There are threats associated with things like drones. We’ll certainly have to rethink the nature of physical security boundaries because of it. But I can’t buy into the kneejerk reaction of banning drones in certain places because I can’t see what it would achieve and I don’t much like the probable consequences.

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