Drones Given to LAPD Raise Privacy Concerns

The Los Angeles Police Department’s recent acquisition of two drones has the ACLU concerned over potential privacy issues.

While the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California applauded the LAPD for being transparent about the department’s acquisition of the Draganflyer X6 drones, the group “questions whether the marginal benefits to SWAT operations justify the serious threat to privacy,” said executive director Hector Villagra.

“They can be used for completely surreptitious surveillance that a helicopter could never perform,” Villagra said in a statement. “Drones equipped with facial recognition software, infrared technology, and speakers capable of monitoring personal conversations would cause real harms to our privacy rights.”

For now, the LAPD has not decided whether or not to use the unmanned vehicles. The drones are being held by a federal law enforcement agency and is pending review by the LAPD and the Board of Police Commissioners, a five-member group that is set in place to serve as the citizen’s voice in police matters.

The drones would be used in narrow cases such as to “prevent imminent bodily harm” or “a hostage situation or barricaded armed suspect,” according to a news release from the LAPD.

The drones were originally purchased by the Seattle Police Department with federal grants and were given to the LAPD free of cost. 

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