February 15, 2013 by Op-Ed
I like pictures. They are like moments captured in time, memories that I can relate to, things that I can laugh about with friends. In fact I love pictures so much that you might see me posing for a couple “selfies” around campus. America seems infatuated with pictures as well. Popular applications such as Snapchat and Instagram highlight what seems to be an obsession with communication through the visual world. Being able to send friends an almost live update of where you are, what you are doing and what you are eating has permeated throughout our lifestyle. Yes, I really like pictures—except when they’re taken without my permission. In an age where the Internet dominates most of our lives, we want to make sure that our personal image is as positive as possible, and we have the freedom to do so. However, the privacy of the individual has recently come under assault in the name of public safety.
Domestic drones are not the answer to America’s security problems, and President Obama’s new memo on domestic drone policy astounded me. In a country where the personal and private lives of others are often exploited by the media and punctured by hate groups, this invasive maneuver by the U.S. government should come as a slap to the face of any American citizen. Whether one is personally for or against drones, it cannot be denied that they invade the privacy of the people captured by cameras thousands of feet in the air. Not already convinced? Here are some reasons why you should be:
1. With drone technology costing well over a million dollars, taxpayers cannot afford to send more drones into the air. Estimates put the expansion of drone surveillance at around $12,500,000 per aircraft.
2. Drones take pictures and sometimes video. Yes, this means pictures of you walking down the street, sitting in the park and flirting with that gentleman who is way out of your league (Seriously folks, do you really want that?).
While the protection of American citizens is an important issue in a modern world, what price are we willing to pay for such security? Are we willing to compromise privacy for the sake of others? Certainly not everyone is a pure altruist ready to accept the idea that, “Yes, I should completely remove myself from any emotional attachment to privacy because the needs of the many far outweigh my own personal thoughts and actions.” To me, President Obama’s action seems like a direct step toward an authoritarian government, one where a paranoid government seizes any opportunity to collect information from its people while directly violating their rights.
As voters — and as people — I think we should be more concerned about the use of domestic drones. We are compromising our own lives to supply massive databases of information with pictures and videos that may or may not be of any significance to national security. We are setting ourselves up for a dystopia, a true Orwellian scenario. How long will it be before we start to see the true agenda? We won’t. We never will. With cameras positioned everywhere on city streets and in the sky, we hardly notice them in our lives. They have become so inconspicuous that we barely mind. This is perhaps more frightening than domestic drones themselves — the complacency of society to adapt to the new “norm” even though it may eventually be detrimental to them.
As a member of society who is deeply concerned about the privacy and well-being of others, domestic drones are not what this country needs. While drones are excellent at serving a purpose in surveillance, they overstep the boundary of what is acceptable in America. An authoritarian police-state is not worth the privacy of many for the possible safety of a few. As a society so focused on individual freedom, creativity and expression, I thought maybe we could do better.
Vaughn Shirey is a freshman computer science major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.