It is mind-boggling when you stop to think about how far technology has come in the last 20 years. It is equally mind-boggling to realize how much our entire society depends on technology.
To be competitive today, businesses need to have a responsive website for customers and consumers. If you don’t think that’s true, ask anyone when was the last time they used a phone book. But just having a responsive website isn’t enough to get you noticed. Businesses need to employ a number of technology-related tools in order to stay relevant. Bottom line, if you aren’t using technology effectively in your business, your competition is.
But technology and the race to get ahead has taken a different, more cynical turn in some circles. This includes theuse of drones — unmanned aerial systems — to spy on your business and even employees … all to gain a competitive advantage … and all of which is perfectly legal under today’s laws.
In an article about privacy and drones, M. Ryan Calo, director for Privacy and Robotics at the Center for Internet & Society, says it is inevitable that drones will see widespread domestic use. In routine use by today’s military, these unmanned aircraft systems threaten to perfect the art of surveillance. Drones are capable of finding or following a specific person. They can fly patterns in search of suspicious activities or hover over a location in wait. Some are as small as birds or insects, others as big as blimps. In addition to high-resolution cameras and microphones, drones can be equipped with thermal imaging and the capacity to intercept wireless communications.
Today, drones have been used to monitor natural disasters such as flooding, or even hot spots in forest fires. Universities are experimenting with drones to monitor crops or vineyards. And law enforcement agencies are using unmanned aerial vehicles in Border Patrol operations.
The private sector has incentives to use drones as well. The media, in particular, could make widespread use of drones to cover unfolding police activity or traffic stories. Imagine what drones would do for the paparazzi industry. There is very little in our privacy law that would prohibit the use of drones within our borders. Generally speaking, citizens do not enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy while in public or even in portions of their own property that is visible from a public vantage point. Computers, the Internet, GPS, biometrics, facial recognition — none of these developments has created the same change in privacy concerns as the use of drones.
A recent study looked at the potential economic impact of the unmanned aircraft (drone) industry. If the FAA integrates drones into the airspace by 2015, the study projects 70,000 new jobs in the U.S. by 2018. By 2025, that number could grow to more than 100,000 jobs.
So while the economy typically thrives on disruptive technology, many issues need to be addressed so disruptive technology doesn’t develop into disturbing technology.
Rick Murray is the chief executive officer of ASBA.
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