Wary of Mass Surveillance and Privacy Risks, New Group Wants St. Louis "Drone Free"

Categories: Police, Politics

St. Louis' mayor, police chief, and top prosecutor all want the same thing: drones.

When the topic of drones flying over St. Louis was in the news last summer, they said drones will help fight crime, catch the bad guys, and make surveillance easier. But a new group that opposes the use of drones in St. Louis wants to tell the city's residents that the controversial devices could do more to restrict liberty than increase safety.

Drone Free St. Louis was launched Tuesday to coincide with the internet-based protest "The Day We Fight Back," which is a coordinated response among various internet entities like Reddit and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to protest the NSA's mass surveillance programs. The timing fits because if it wasn't for the revelations of the NSA programs, John Chesnoff, one of the founders of the Drone Free St. Louis campaign, might sound a tad paranoid to the average person.

But in an age where the government can read your email and listen to your phone calls, maybe worrying about drones constantly watching you isn't so crazy.

Daily RFT talked to John Chasnoff, a longtime activist on police accountability issues and one of the founders of Drone Free St. Louis to find out what's so bad about having little remote-control planes flying around in the sky.

Mayor Slay later said he was referring to FBI drones in this tweet. However, he also acknowledged that drones would likely be used for local law enforcement.

Daily RFT: Seriously, John - what's so bad about these things?

We have a real concern that there is really not a way to effectively regulate police drones. And what we've seen developing over the past several years, especially since 911, is massive surveillance of the domestic population. And we're seeing already street cameras all over the place and now we've seen, through the NSA revelations that have happened, is the government is watching our email and our online activities. So the last thing we need is more surveillance. And we feel that the drones will really be a game-changer in that regard because they're so inexpensive and so technologically sophisticated that they will make it possible to have 24/7 surveillance of the population.

See also: Drones In St. Louis? City Officials Mention Technology As Potential Crime-Fighting Tool

St. Louis' own Boeing makes many drones, including this one named "The Phantom Eye."

Some people might say you sound like you're wearing a tinfoil hat and plan on looking for black helicopters after this interview. What do you say to them?

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