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Eric Schmidt: Regulate Civilian Drones Now 420

Posted by Soulskill
from the ban-telescopes-and-corrective-lenses-as-well dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is urging lawmakers to regulate the use of unmanned aircraft by civilians — and quickly. He posed this hypothetical situation to The Guardian: 'You're having a dispute with your neighbor. How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?' Schmidt went on to bring up military and terrorist concerns. 'I'm not going to pass judgment on whether armies should exist, but I would prefer to not spread and democratize the ability to fight war to every single human being. It's got to be regulated... It's one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they're doing, but have other people doing it... it's not going to happen.'"
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Eric Schmidt: Regulate Civilian Drones Now

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  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:43PM (#43440841)

    I live outside city limits, so I would take my shotgun and get rid of the annoying nuance flying over my house, how would my neighbor feel about it... dont care

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:59PM (#43440969) Journal
      Yeah, I think this is basically Eric Schmidt having #richPersonProblems. If that happened to me, I would wonder why anyone wants to do such a boring thing with their life as watch me. But now that he is rich, he is concerned about reporters and paparazzi, and random people who might try to find some reason to sue him.

      The funny thing is he's ok with the government doing it. That's kind of hilarious.
      • by tchdab1 (164848) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:19PM (#43441111) Homepage

        He wants to avoid "democratizing" war, but he is OK with governments doing it - I was also struck by this. Is this typical elitist thinking, or an effort to keep the genie in the bottle? Either way, the elites are thinking about what can happen when technology allows anyone to become their own army. Hey guys, it might be time to consider equality.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Isn't he the same one who said privacy is dead?

          What he means is that privacy for peons is dead because big companies like Google are power and information brokers. And he doesn't want democratization of power and information brokering because it gets in the way of his brave new world.

      • by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @03:03PM (#43441757) Homepage Journal

        I don't think he's having rich people problems, it's just he's concerned that a (currently new) technology, once matured, could be used - even in a well meaning way - to track and compromise the privacy of ordinary people just going about their ordinary business, by third parties who feel they need the information to do their jobs. For example, a drone might be operated by a company that sells advertising, tracking things like what stores you go to and who your friends are, so that it can deliver advertising more appropriate to your interests.

        I'm pretty sure that's what Schmidt is concerned about, anyway.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          I don't think he's having rich people problems, it's just he's concerned that a (currently new) technology, once matured, could be used - even in a well meaning way - to track and compromise the privacy of ordinary people just going about their ordinary business, by third parties who feel they need the information to do their jobs. For example, a drone might be operated by a company that sells advertising, tracking things like what stores you go to and who your friends are, so that it can deliver advertisin

    • If the drone was high enough, how much good would a shotgun do you?
      • by amiga3D (567632)

        I'm thinking green laser. Or maybe a stinger missile, that'd be so cool. I don't see why the army should get to have all the fun.

        • . Or maybe a stinger missile, that'd be so cool. I don't see why the army should get to have all the fun.

          You need to get a Destructive Devices permit, which costs $200, need to swear you are not a criminal, and don't have any domestic violence misdemeanors. Also, your state laws may vary. You can buy a tank, too. [wsj.com]

          BTW I'm not sure a stinger missile would actually hit a drone....

    • Which is exactly what the annoying neighbor wants: Once you shoot the drone down, then he can sue you for destruction of property.

      This is another use of a very common, and very powerful, trick:
      1. Taunt opponent, provoking them into striking back. If they don't, taunt harder.
      2. Once they strike back, call upon authority to come to your aid.

      It's the same basic approach be it the school bully trying to provoke a victim into hitting him so that victim will be expelled for assault, or a difficult neighbor harass

    • by PNutts (199112)

      I live near a large-ish airport so depending on how the airspace is carved up the drone's owner may need to worry more about how other people feel about it than me.

    • Even commerical drones fly above your shotgun range. Why do you think Google has images of your backyard without you noticing?
  • by berashith (222128) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:43PM (#43440843)

    My neighbors can currently buy a camera and watch me from their property. They can have slightly more visibility for some angles from the air. If the noise is the issue, you can already call in complaints on that , and police will help you remove the nuisance.

    • by phrostie (121428)

      he just doesn't want people making google maps obsolete.

    • My neighbors can currently buy a camera and watch me from their property.

      They can? Does the US have no privacy laws at all?

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspaM.world3.net> on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:18PM (#43441107) Homepage

        There have been many instances of people filming their neighbour's properties in order to gather evidence against them in the UK. When I first saw a programme about it on TV I was surprised that it was legal, but apparently it is and the programme in question was trying to make out it was a good thing because it helped clamp down on anti-social behaviour.

        Moral of the story: built a high wall around your property and keep the curtains closed if you want privacy. People actually do that here, although they usually use tall trees instead of walls.

      • by PNutts (199112)

        Where is it illegal to put a camera on your property that can see someone else's property? Legit question. We're not talking about targeting a bedroom window full frame.

  • Google (Score:2, Insightful)

    by John Wagger (2693019) *

    How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?

    If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

    • by stefpe (256175)

      .. and if you decide to pork the ole' lady behind your 8ft privacy fence, your neighbor gets it on tape and sells it to realneighborsdoingit.com? Would you be cool with that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

      If you're going to quote the guy, at least give proper attribution in double quotes and a link to video showing him actually saying that. Here's the citation:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6e7wfDHzew [youtube.com]

      linked from Wikipedia:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Schmidt#Privacy [wikipedia.org]

    • by n3tm0nk (2725243)
      Oh yes, of course!! I forgot that everyone should be able to know what is happening in every room of my house just to make sure I don't do anything that would offend anyone else at any given moment of my life. One of the consequences of a free society is that sometimes you will be offended. Period. If you don't like that idea, there is a plethora of communists and dictators that would absolutely LOVE to have you come live in their country. Then all of you can march along the same line and all hold the same
    • Re:Google (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:13PM (#43441071) Journal
      "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place," Eric Schmidt (in a 2009 interview)

      "In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you," Schmidt said at the 2010 Techonomy conference, arguing that there were dangers to having complete anonymity online and that governments may eventually put an end to anonymity. "We need a [verified] name service for people," he said. "Governments will demand it."

      This is the first time Schmidt has ever made an argument in favor of privacy (as far as I know).
  • From TFA:

    How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?

    While I might be creeped out by my neighbor's drone, I would be more creeped out by a government drone. Eric Schmidt is a reflex authoritrian. He has said about privacy rights: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." So it doesn't surprise me that he thinks governments should have a monopoly on spying.

    I own a drone (an RC helicopter with wifi and a camera). Eric, you can take my drone when you peel the controller from my co

  • Only the rich (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:44PM (#43440863) Homepage

    Only the rich should be allowed this technology. We cannot have the plebs uncovering crime, uncovering environmental disasters, showing the world how it truly is. Only large corporations and police, who are unduly influenced by large corporations should have this kind of power. Allowing this technology may result in the upset of current power structures.

    --Schmidt

    • Re:Only the rich (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tapspace (2368622) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:14PM (#43441079)

      That's pretty much how I read it. Eric Schmidt is already the worst person in tech. He is one of the greatest threats to the American way of life, traditionally rooted in the idea that humans have many natural rights, not the least of which is privacy. He also seems to be a very real threat to the already well eroded foundation that government power is granted only by the people. I seriously hope he chokes to death, and I mean that.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 13, 2013 @02:40PM (#43441631)

      Everything Schmidt does at Google is devoted to destroying user privacy, yet when it comes to his own privacy, he doesn't want the masses to observe his private life using drones. The contrast couldn't be more vivid.

      His comment that "it's OK for government to observe" is a poorly veiled "it's OK for the rich to observe", because government in the US is entirely under the control of the rich through the legalized bribery of "campaign contributions". And Google doesn't even try to hide its gluttony for observing everything, so "it's OK for corporations to observe" is implicit in his words. It's just not OK for you and me to do so.

      This man really is one of the most morally corrupt people at the helm of technology giants today.

  • Quiet enjoyment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:47PM (#43440879) Homepage
    We already have laws to cover this or any other kind of annoyance from a neighbor. That's what civil law is in place to deal with. In the US at least, you have a right to "quiet enjoyment" of your real estate. In a situation described in the article, you sue your neighbor. No need for more laws.
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      It is even simpler in that all you need to do is lodge a complaint with the local bylaw enforcement officer.

  • I would feel like I my neighbor was prohttp://tech.slashdot.org/story/13/04/13/159257/eric-schmidt-regulate-civilian-drones-now#viding me with the opportunity to practice target shooting.

  • But what about those guys who deliver pizza by drone? Sounds useful. Just.. there's no air traffic control. And can be used by bad guys, like most things.

  • But seriously, Google's case (or rather Eric Schmidt's case) that drones should be regulated is somewhat ironic considering monitoring is nothing new at Google. The drones in this case aren't armed (and I'm certainly not condoning arbitrary use), but the potential for "oops, we just veered off course and stumbled into your growlab" is all too easy. That's the real harm here, not that we're worried there would be any rockets taking out civilians; it's the gradual erosion of personal space.

    Also drones going b

  • i call bs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:50PM (#43440897)

    he wants drone legislation to create a barrier to entry to compete with whatever Google will be offering. realtime google maps? etc

  • by rbrander (73222) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:51PM (#43440909) Homepage

    What about the guys who can shoot people legally? Now that American citizens have officially been declared "fair game", the rest of us foreigners, (who already lived only by continued forbearance), thought you'd finally get concerned...

  • Enough Government (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noobermin (1950642) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:53PM (#43440921) Journal

    Get your government off my drone.
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a drone is a good guy with a drone.

    • by 6ULDV8 (226100)

      "If drones are outlawed, only outlaws will have drones"? Sound like another drug war. Better build some prisons quick or you'll miss all that sweet government money.

      If Joe Citizen hovers over my yard with video, that's creepy and I'd have a chat with him. Most likely, he's a nerd too. If the government does it, that's scary. You can never be sure what they're up to and they're more likely to lie about it.

  • In other words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vvaduva (859950) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:54PM (#43440925)

    ...how would anyone feel if some corporation indexes every words that comes out of your fingers, searches your emails to serve you ads and even turn them to government when they ask for it, and uses cars equipped with cameras to drive around and take pictures of your house?? What the hell? Regulate this shit...NOW!

    • by ScentCone (795499)

      searches your emails to serve you ads

      Wow, Google is serving you ads on your own mail server? Oh, You mean they're serving you ads while you're using their huge infrastructure for free. How dare they!

      some corporation indexes every words that comes out of your fingers

      So you create a document and save it on your local hard disk, or send it in an email from your mail server to someone else's mail server, and Google is indexing it anyway? How? Oh, you mean words you type out and put on public display on the internet. How dare they!

  • Schmidt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hackus (159037) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:54PM (#43440927) Homepage

    Notice how he points out YOU shouldn't have drones, but the banking elite funding all of these wars, using your bank accounts CAN have drones, with no restrictions of course.

    So, when the Banks shut down, and you decide to get mad because they stole your money, don't be surprised if you see Schmidt's cronies he hangs out with flying Military drones over your head to insure you either like the banks raping you or you don't.

    Which if you do, you are a terrorist, and your fair game for the drone.

    What a load of crap.

    I say unregulate civilian drones, and BAN military and government drones.

    -Hack

    • by tapspace (2368622)

      I say unregulate civilian drones, and BAN military and government drones.

      -Hack

      Why can't we both have drones? Rules and regulations that are proper for civilians are also proper to place upon police (since they are also civilians). Same goes for all weapons bans. We're taking away the citizenry's constitutional (that is to say natual, God-granted) right to own useful weaponry and arming our police forces to the teeth so they can shoot our compatriots' dogs and seize their property. I don't want American exceptionalism to be another failed experiment and in 100 years the world is b

  • by theodp (442580) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:55PM (#43440933)

    Mother Jones: Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers [motherjones.com]

  • Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by waddgodd (34934) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @12:55PM (#43440935) Homepage Journal

    "We got all the data we need from drones, so fuck all the rest of you". cf the semi-autonomous streetview cars, satellite imagery (hey wait, a satellite's not a....D'OH), numerous other projects that we've not heard of yet

  • Sounds like he has a very large place if his neighbours need a drone to see it. Most people in the non-celebrity world have a place that is easily overlooked from neighbours' properties, so what would be the point of a drone?

    Except maybe to piss you off with the noise (he talks about "all day"), but they can do that already with a lawnmower, unless, again, you have huge tracts land - your own - around you.
  • Go out, buy a RC model plane and stick a cell phone on it. DIY drone. Try regulating that.
  • The notion that states or governments have some sort of legitimacy that individuals do not is wrong headed. If the government can spy on you then why can I not spy on you? And if you can be filmed from public places just where is the expectation of privacy?
    In all seriousness we have numerous large businesses and residences that have people on foot pa

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I agree. I can't wait until my new Acme 8 kiloton neighborhood nuclear device arives. I'm still shopping for a delivery system.

  • by afgam28 (48611)

    Imagine how awful it would be if someone were to fly over people's houses, take pictures of their backyards and post them on the internet ;)

  • The English language is the most masterful for manipulating the thought process.
    What's illegal for the people should be illegal for the government of the people.
    It doesn't work that way does it?
  • ...his neighbor doesn't like him and has been flying a drone over his house all day long.
  • Different worries (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerteNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:03PM (#43441001)

    It's not hypothetical, future civilian use that worries me. It's real, current military use that needs to be regulated immediately.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:04PM (#43441009)
    Does the 2nd amendment give my drones the right to bear arms? Can I have armed drones patrolling my property?
  • Catching polluters, for example. We probably don't want them seeing every detail, but there's at least a useful tension between having a pair of eyes and seeing everything. I wonder if existing property laws (defining airspace above property) are enough. Might be on a state-by-state basis.

  • What regulations does he want?
    Size? Duration aloft? Areas of operation? Who can operate them? Licensing? I agree there should be regulation as I don't want heavy object falling on my head due to untrained idiot pilots.

    The terrorist FUD is just stupid. How many terrorists will follow the regulations?

    The neighbor scenario thing is also stupid. A similar thing can be done with a couple of 40' poles and cameras. If he wants the annoying factor of the sound then add a leaf blower. This issue is already covered

  • by ikaruga (2725453) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:12PM (#43441065)

    '...How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?'

    Said the guy who sends a car to photograph my entire neighborhood and collects hi-res satellite pictures of it every 6 months or so.

  • Pot, Kettle (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kfx (603703) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:14PM (#43441083)

    It seems just a little bit comical that someone whose livelihood lies in obtaining as much information as possible about people for profit is complaining about individuals having the ability to spy on others.

  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:15PM (#43441087)
    Eric "i-google-you-but-you-cant-ogle-me" Schmidt sez "...but I would prefer to not spread and democratize the ability to fight war to every single human being"
    .
    Hey, have you heard of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the USA [wikipedia.org], Eric? It specifically does what you wound not prefer: democratize the ability to fight war to every single human being in the U.S.A. by giving the people the right to bear arms. The right to bear arms allows people to have the hardware that would allow them the ability to fight war. The founding fathers, who were a hell of a lot smarter than Eric is, felt the need to enshrine that right to bear arms in writing as an amendment to the Constitution that put my country together. To quote from Animal House, I will not stand here and listen to you bad-mouth the United States of America!!
    .
    Fuck you, Eric Schmidt. You want to and are currently compiling huge detailed dossiers of the activities, interests, writings, travels, telephone calls, words in telephone calls, purchasing habits, pictures of the fronts and sides (and backs too) of their houses and cars and license plates with streetview, and overhead satellite and aerial photography views from satellite photography purchased for google maps. And you have the fucking gall to say that you don't want THE PEOPLE of the USA to be able to fly and perform aerial surveillance. What a bunch of hogwash. I wish you would go back to work rather than trying to buy laws that you want passed (like allowing self-driving cars, don't tell me you didn't pay someone off in Nevada to get that passed so quickly, eh?).
  • by thrillseeker (518224) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:23PM (#43441133)
    it's one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they're doing, but have other people doing it ... it's not going to happen

    Well Mr. Schmidt - from where do you think governments derive their legitimacy?

  • And when the government comes for the undesirable neighbors (currently the poor "drug abusing" minorities and people of middle-eastern descent), no one will be able to see the police brutality and rights violations! Everyone wins!

    I honestly can't think of any detriment to having neighbors with spy drones. They send spy drones onto my property? I'll send my own drones to track theirs and watch them watching me. If it's amusing enough I'll probably document the whole thing on a public website. Privacy is

  • .... news at 11.

  • one might ask... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:31PM (#43441179) Journal

    Not saying that we're there yet, but one might extrapolate not inconceivably far into the future to ask about the essential and theoretical foundations which grant this so-called 'legitimacy' to a state that somehow outranks the individual. What is it that a state "has" that an individual doesn't, and could we conceive of a society in which the state doesn't have any sort of primacy over the individual?

    It speaks to the essential nature of the social contract, and the state born therefrom (of course this assumes that the power of the state flows FROM the the citizen, and not the other way around); but in an era where there are fewer and fewer intrinsic bottlenecks on the movement, communication, and power of citizens - for example, we're not THAT far away (50 years? 100 years?) from an era in which people could credibly create their own nuclear or bioweapons. What happens to the concepts of WMD "proliferation" when the technology, energy, and intellectual resources are ubiquitous?

    It's worth mentioning that I see this in the roots of the 2nd Amendment discussions in the US as well: the martial power available to a citizen in, say, a fully-automatic weapon is almost inconceivably more than the Founding Fathers imagined a single individual having. Does this mean that the Amendment should be nullified, or (as we have today) that we acquiesce to incrementally circumscribing what is an otherwise pretty categorical and straightforward prohibition on ANY such limitation?

    It's of course a smaller issue, but I see the powers available to UAVs another camel-nose-under-the-tent of personal capability to do something formerly reserved to government. I do NOT believe that blanket prohibition is in any way feasible or practicable over the long term - genies don't go back into bottles willingly.

  • "I would prefer to not spread and democratize the ability to fight war to every single human being. It's got to be regulated... It's one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they're doing, but have other people doing it..." [emphasis mine]

    I stopped reading right there. Not because I disagree, but because I was laughing too hard. What the fuck planet does this guy come from/live on?

  • Full disclosure: I barely skimmed the summary and only read 2 or 3 comments. I certainly didn't read any linked articles.

    You're having a dispute with your neighbor. How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?

    I'd feel annoyed about it. And there are already laws on the books I can use to deal with that situation. If my neighbor was doing that, s/he would be interfering with my quiet enjoyment of my home and property. I document it and call the cops. If the neighbor keeps it up, we'll end up in court and the judge will order him to knock it the hell off. If the neighbor still keeps it up

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @01:49PM (#43441281)

    "You're having a dispute with your neighbor. How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial video camera that they can point in your general direction from their backyard? It just watches your house all day. How would you feel about it? ... I'm not going to pass judgment on whether constant surveillance should exist, but I would prefer to not spread and democratize the ability to record video to every single human being. It's got to be regulated... It's one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they're doing, but have other people doing it... it's not going to happen."

  • by bugnuts (94678) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @02:26PM (#43441543) Journal

    You have the right to be free from that annoyance. Any drones that flew over your house would have to be over 500 feet (depending on area, might be more) in public airspace, or be a very temporary disturbance.

    Hovering for long periods below 500 feet or above but impinging on your right to enjoy your property is illegal.

    "Drones", or UAVs, or UASs, better known as "Radio control planes" have been quite legal for decades. He's trying to make a big deal of it only because it's going to be legal for commercial entities instead of just hobbyists to use. Your neighbor already can hover over your house, so there's no impending emergency to enact legislation as he is implying.

    Google Glass is a far worse threat, and I fear he may be making a "Look over there!" argument to distract from the horrible invasions of privacy that will be happening in a few years due to Eric Schmidt himself.

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