Drones above New York 'Scary' but Inevitable, Mayor Bloomberg Says

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As the debate over the use of drones to hunt terrorists reaches new heights, surveillance drones may quietly creep over American cities, including New York, in the near future, according to recent comments made by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

During a weekly radio show appearance on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg acknowledged concerns about the potential use of domestic drones for surveillance by the New York Police Department but said that such a development was inevitable.

Were going to have more visibility and less privacy I dont see how you stop that, Bloomberg said. Its just were going into a different world, uncharted, and, like it or not, what people can do, what governments can do, is different. And you can, to some extent control, but you cant keep the tides from coming in.

The news raises questions about the level of detail drones may capture, how the information may be used, and if and when US cities can expect to see surveillance drones overhead.

Not surprisingly, its also raising privacy concerns, with civil liberties groups expressing concern that the government is creating a permanent record and wondering where the line on public surveillance will be drawn.

It is disappointing that Mayor Bloomberg thinks that the more than 2,400 surveillance cameras already blanketing New York City are inadequate enough to require the addition of an unmanned drone program, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in an e-mail.

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Though most Americans associate drones with hunting and killing terrorists overseas, President Obama signed legislation in February 2012 opening US airspace for government and commercial drones. Predicted to be a $6 billion industry by 2016, drones would be used for a variety of purposes, from border surveillance to real estate advertising to crop dusting.

And of course, police monitoring.

Though the mayor provided no specific dates or details regarding the use of surveillance drones in New York, he said he viewed it as an extension of the thousands of security cameras currently monitoring New Yorkers every move.

Its scary but whats the difference whether the drone is up in the air or on the building, he said. Intellectually, I have trouble making a distinction.

The NYCLU estimates there are 2,400 surveillance cameras in Manhattan alone, which combined with the citys new facial recognition unit, can scan faces in surveillance images or social media and match them against mugshots to hone in on suspects in criminal investigations. …

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