Tuesday 24 January 2012

Drones: At war and at home

Continuing my recent theme on the use of drones in journalism, I came across this Guardian article rather strangely entitled: 'Drones in the hands of the paparazzi? It's an ethics and privacy minefield'

There are some interesting observations here and the article lists some of the important questions raised by the increasing use of drones in military contexts:
"Do drones lower the threshold of war, encouraging those who deploy them to be more bellicose? Can they or their operators sufficiently discriminate combatants from civilians in order to comply with international law? Are they proportionate, or so horrifically cruel as to qualify, along with anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs, for prohibition? Does their cybernetic nature make them a biological weapon? What effect does their deployment have on the "hearts and minds" of civilians, or the morale of soldiers? Should we worry that Iran appears to have assumed control of a US drone, having kidnapped it out of the sky? And who is to blame when drones go wrong?"
But then right at the end, the article notes that drones are making the leap from foreign to domestic policy which left me with the impression that the piece was suggesting that what we should really be worrying about is the paparazzi using drones.

In other words, there are a few complicated questions about killing 'other people' in foreign lands, but when governments and the media start taking photos of 'us' using drones then we should really become concerned.

I am as worried about privacy, ethics, the media and the use of drones for domestic surveillance as the next person.

But as the article rightly points out (if you read past the headline and the inadvertently misleading structure) there are more pressing "ethical and legal concerns" which we must not lose sight of in future domestic debates on drones.  


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