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One-third of Americans fear drones

Published time: September 28, 2012 21:00
Edited time: September 29, 2012 01:00
An unmanned Predator drone

An unmanned Predator drone

Are you afraid of drones? Those unmanned aerial vehicles that can be remotely controlled from thousands of miles away that can also conduct blanketing surveillance and shoot down insurgents? You’re not alone — so does one-third of America.

The Associated Press has conducted a poll in conjunction with the National Constitution Center, and with the release of the results this week both agencies conclude that one-third of the United States actually “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about the future of their privacy given the very real possibility of rampant drone use in the US in the coming years.

Although drones are primarily put into the sky above countries abroad pursuant with US foreign military operations, the Federal Aviation Administration is preparing to clear UAVs for domestic use in the next few years. By the end of this decade, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says that they expect 30,000 of those crafts to cut through clouds right above the United States, and according to the latest AP poll, that fact isn’t sitting pretty with a pretty big chunk of America.

There are, however, some that say they give drones the go-ahead: while more than one-third of Americans polled voices deep concern with a domestic drone program, 36 percent said that they were “not too concerned” or “not concerned at all.” Nearly one-quarter said they were “somewhat concerned” about their loss of privacy, but in all 44 percent say they support allowing law enforcement agencies to engage in drone surveillance programs.

The poll goes on to suggest that while white Americans don’t stray too far from the results typical of the entire sample of people polled, 48 percent of blacks are concerned over what drones will do to their personal freedoms.

David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, says he suspected opposition to surveillance drones to be much more substantial.

"I had assumed that the idea that American police would be using the same technology that our military is using in Afghanistan would garner an almost hysterical response," Eisner tells the Associated Press. Support for drone use "shows that people are feeling less physically secure than they'd like to because they are willing to accept fairly extreme police action to improve that security,” he adds.

GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications conducted phone surveys of 1,006 adults in mid-August in order to conduct their polling, the details of which were published on Thursday.