Executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, recently went public with his concerns about 'everyman' drones getting into the wrong hands. Thinks they should be banned... might be a privacy threat. Guess Schmidt should know being a top exec of a company that some regard as one of the biggest privacy threats on the planet.
Google has a cosy relationship with Barack Obama who knows all about drones, so we should probably pay attention. Schmidt thinks we need to be aware of the potential of drones to "democratize the ability to fight war"... and warns of drones being used to spy and harass. In other words the little people might get hold of them as opposed to you know... the cops, American military.
Drones in the hands of law enforcement is not reassuring. Neither is the use of drones by the Obama administration for misguided counter-terrorism purposes. I have yet to read Schmidt's concern for the mounting toll of innocents in the drone campaign. But we do get this by way of justification for drone use... "It's one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they're doing."
Really? Not according to international law, the UN and those countries whose sovereignty is being overridden without their say-so, just so the U.S. can add a few more corpses to the "done" column of its ever growing snuff sheet. Glenn Greenwald has a column that discusses some of these issues.
With regard to an 'everyman war' breaking out, with drones being deployed in unconventional ways, Schmidt raises the alarm: "You're having a dispute with your neighbor... How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?"
His concern is a bit weird to be honest. More than a little rich coming from a head of a company with fleets of prowling observation cars. Not everyone is a millionaire with the cash and leisure time to invest in drone tech in order to spy on Bob for letting his dog take a dump under the rose bush. Most normal humans have other ways of dealing with that and other neighborhood issues, like picking up the phone. Maybe 'everyman' drones are more of a concern for billionaires who see one way in which their security could be breached that can't easily be covered by the usual deterrents.
Let's worry about the neighbors later if any of these somewhat paranoid scenarios pan out. Primarily we should be concerned about the abuse of drones by law enforcement, the military and concerned security-wise also about, well... GOOGLE.
Google is spy-central, a massive data collection magnet, even though it tries hard to present as the friendly giant. Google is on "our" side - right? Google can get down - right? Hell, here's proof. G founder Sergey Brin riding NY transit wearing an all-black outfit and sporting Google glasses. There he is, right alongside regular commuters - both of whom look slightly frightened. A regular man of the people.
There are legitimate privacy concerns in using Google services. Add a neighborhood fence sitter scanning with Google glass and a Google observation vehicle casing the house for Street View and it could prove more privacy compromising than having an irate neighbor launch a commercially purchased mini-drone that looks like a flying spider. Might even be fun... a chance to sharpen your rusty shooting skills.
Google is a company that is cosy with Obama... the agent of change and bringer of light who is okay with weaponized drones roaming the planet engaging in extrajudicial assassinations. That would include the killing of American citizens - if deemed by the U.S. government to be worthy of incineration. Let's not even count the number of civilians, children included, who have been killed in American drone strikes.
As to Schmidt's warning of the approaching Day of the Drone. It would take some serious escalation of a local issue for a neighbor to resort to drones and even then, as mentioned, there are more than a few ways to discourage it. If we're talking more extensive disputes involving factions, gangs, turf, paramilitary use... that's something else again... but why should the US government and Google get access to all the cool toys and not the rest of us? Is that because we should trust them?
Google is in the business of photographing everything that can be photographed. It is intrusive in ways a lot of the targeted find compromising, even invasive. We are supposed to trust it... the company with a "do no evil" motto that Steve Jobs dismissed out of hand as "bullshit." Frankly I'd rather trust my ornery neighbor, even if he does have a fleet of mini-drones poised to go.