Privacy SOS

Mosquito-like drone at Harvard could be used to pollinate, spy on you in the shower

Please note that by playing this clip YouTube and Google will place a long term cookie on your computer.

Drones and helicopters are totally the same thing, so we don't need any new laws to protect us from drone spying! Helicopters can already spy on us from the sky, so no big deal!

Tell that to the mosquito-like "Robobee" drone Harvard is building (and which you can check out in the video embedded above).

The "Robobee" project is "inspired by the biology of a bee and the insect’s hive behavior" and aims "to push advances in miniature robotics and the design of compact high-energy power sources; spur innovations in ultra-low-power computing and electronic 'smart' sensors; and refine coordination algorithms to manage multiple, independent machines."

What are these little robobees going to do?

Coordinated agile robotic insects can be used for a variety of purposes including:
  • autonomously pollinating a field of crops;
  • search and rescue (e.g., in the aftermath of a natural disaster);
  • hazardous environment exploration;
  • military surveillance;
  • high resolution weather and climate mapping; and 
  • traffic monitoring.
These are the ubiquitous applications typically invoked in the development of autonomous robots. However, in mimicking the physical and behavioral robustness of insect groups by coordinating large numbers of small, agile robots, we will be able to accomplish such tasks faster, more reliably, and more efficiently.

So in other words, this is just like a helicopter.

Helicopters are also basically the same as hummingbird drones, which may someday perch on power lines to recharge their batteries before flying past your window to sneak a peek. They are also essentially the same as bug drones that can kill you. Finally, choppers are nearly indistinguishable from the all-seeing Argus, which can hover above a city and track up to 65 targets within it at once, meanwhile keeping its enormous, godlike eye on an entire metropolis. 

No, drones aren't the same as helicopters. And the argument that we don't need legislation to deal with the threat of drone surveillance because helicopters can already spy on us is a red herring, because the law as it stands doesn't do a very good job of ensuring people or technology in helicopters don't spy on us without good cause or warrants.

Here's the bottom line on aerial surveillance in the United States: The legal protections as they exist today aren't good enough, and drones will enable surveillance at a scale and intensity that is currently impossible with the much more expensive, burdensome choppers. 

Therefore, we need legislation to fill the gap. Take action now if you live in Massachusetts and care about your privacy.

If police want to use mosquito drones to swarm around your house and take pictures of you in your backyard, they should get a warrant

h/t to Steve Annear

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.