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Unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life. Many Americans have heard of these aircraft, commonly called drones, because of their use overseas in places like Afghanistan and Yemen. But drones are coming to America. Their deployment has so far been held up by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over safety concerns, but that agency is under strong industry and Congressional pressure to pave the way for domestic deployment. Meanwhile, the technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, interest in deploying drones among police departments is increasing, and our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values.
We need a system of rules to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this technology without bringing us a large step closer to a "surveillance society" in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the authorities. In this paper, we outline a set of protections that we believe would protect Americans' privacy in the coming world of drones.