Debate on drones raises issue of safety vs. privacy
By Andrew Conte
Published: Monday, May 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Elmer Burger II looks up across the room at an architects' cocktail party as he hears the quick, repetitive chop of 4-inch helicopter blades cutting through the air.
The Tribune-Review drone just darts among tables where people stand talking, hovers over a buffet line and rises 15 feet in the air to survey the room. A tiny camera records what it sees.
Many participants at AIA Pittsburgh's annual Build Pittsburgh event said their expectations of privacy end when they leave home.
“We grew up with the Bond movies, and that's for real now,” Burger, 65, of Mt. Lebanon, says to a group of people.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering legislation to regulate aerial drones, something several other states have done. Yet wall-mounted surveillance cameras, overhead satellites and even cellphones ubiquitously capture scenes of daily life.
In moments such as the Boston Marathon bombing, those pieces of equipment can provide critical information to police.
“I prefer safety over privacy,” Sean Donnelly, 41, of Mt. Lebanon said during the party. “Everyone has access to document where you are.”
Amateur drones such as the Trib's helicopter — which is small enough to fit in the palm of a hand and costs less than $50 — are changing privacy boundaries again.
The Trib drone flies only indoors and for a limited time. Slightly more expensive models are able to hover semi-discretely outside, peering into public places, bedrooms and backyards.
Banded together with emerging technologies to identify human faces, the machines will allow anyone to watch and record.
“There's a line to draw: If you're doing a little skinny-dipping, you want to be aware,” Michael Brunner, 45, of Robinson said with a smile. “I'm sure that will be defined over the next couple of years as we figure this out.”
Andrew Conte is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7835 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Century III new owner seeks to reverse vacancy trend with new theater
- Corrected performance profiles provided for Pennsylvania schools
- Newsmaker: Richard L. Byrne
- Hill District nonprofit’s finances are taking another dive
- Food stamp fraud, bloat overshadow debate on farm bill
- President Suresh champions multifaceted Carnegie Mellon University
- Companies are rethinking their holiday parties with different kinds of venues
- Newsmaker: Kacey Marra
- Century after 1st gas station, alternative fuel options increase for Western Pa. drivers
- Smaller transit service funds intact under new Pa. transportation plan
- Newsmaker: Mary C. Burke