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Drones over America. Are they spying on you?

Thousands of drones could be routinely flying over the United States within the next 10 years. They can help with law enforcement and border control, but they also raise questions about invasion of privacy.

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At the same time, the instruction states, “Collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent.”

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Americans have mixed feelings about pilotless drones flown over the US, according to a new Monmouth University Poll.

A large majority (80 percent) supports the idea of using drones to help with search and rescue missions; a substantial majority also supports using drones to track down runaway criminals (67 percent) and control illegal immigration along US borders (64 percent).

But despite widespread support for certain domestic applications of drone technology, privacy issues are an obvious concern, the poll finds. For example, just 23 percent support using drones for such routine police activity as issuing speeding tickets while two-thirds oppose the idea.

“Specifically, 42 percent of Americans would be very concerned and 22 percent would be somewhat concerned about their own privacy if US law enforcement started using unmanned drones with high tech surveillance cameras," the poll report states.

That’s the increasing attitude on Capitol Hill as well.

“I do not want a drone monitoring where I go, what I do and for how long I do whatever it is that I'm doing,” US Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky wrote on CNN’s website this week. “I do not want a nanny state watching over my every move. We should not be treated like criminals or terrorists while we are simply conducting our everyday lives. We should not have our rights infringed upon by unwarranted police-state tactics.”

Legislation introduced by Senator Paul – the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012” – would force police officials to obtain a warrant before using domestic drones.

“If the warrant is not obtained, this act would allow any person to sue the government,” Paul writes. “This act also specifies that no evidence obtained or collected in violation of this act can be admissible as evidence in a criminal, civil or regulatory action.”

A similar bill introduced by Rep. Austin Scott (R) of Georgia is now before the House Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Mike Johanns (R) of Nebraska wants to ban the Environmental Protection Agency from using drones to make sure farmers and ranchers comply with environmental regulations.

Still, the Federal Aviation Administration noted recently that it is “streamlining the process for public agencies to safely fly UAS in the nation’s airspace.”

IN PICTURES: Drones America's unmanned Predators

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