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Drones above New York 'scary' but inevitable, Mayor Bloomberg says (+video)

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says domestic drones are coming, suggesting they perform the same functions as street cameras. Critics say the aim is to create permanent records.

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / March 27, 2013

Protesters lay down on the entrance road to Creech Air Force Base, home to the Predator and Reaper drones, during an anti-drone protest in Indian Springs, Nev., on Wednesday.

Julie Jacobson/AP

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New York

As the debate over the use of drones to hunt terrorists reaches new heights, surveillance drones may quietly creep over American cities, including New York, in the near future, according to recent comments made by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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During his weekly radio address on a New York radio station, the mayor made it clear that with advances in technology, the government's ability to keep an eye on its citizens is changing; meaning spy drones may become as common in the big apple as a rude cab driver.

During a weekly radio show appearance on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg acknowledged concerns about the potential use of domestic drones for surveillance by the New York Police Department but said that such a development was inevitable.

“We’re going to have more visibility and less privacy – I don’t see how you stop that,” Bloomberg said. “It’s just we’re going into a different world, uncharted, and, like it or not, what people can do, what governments can do, is different. And you can, to some extent control, but you can’t keep the tides from coming in.”

The news raises questions about the level of detail drones may capture, how the information may be used, and if and when US cities can expect to see surveillance drones overhead.

Not surprisingly, it’s also raising privacy concerns, with civil liberties groups expressing concern that the government is creating a permanent record – and wondering where the line on public surveillance will be drawn.

“It is disappointing that Mayor Bloomberg thinks that the more than 2,400 surveillance cameras already blanketing New York City are inadequate enough to require the addition of an unmanned drone program,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in an e-mail.

Though most Americans associate drones with hunting and killing terrorists overseas, President Obama signed legislation in February 2012 opening US airspace for government and commercial drones. Predicted to be a $6 billion industry by 2016, drones would be used for a variety of purposes, from border surveillance to real estate advertising to crop dusting.

And of course, police monitoring.

Though the mayor provided no specific dates or details regarding the use of surveillance drones in New York, he said he viewed it as an extension of the thousands of security cameras currently monitoring New Yorkers’ every move.

“It’s scary but what’s the difference whether the drone is up in the air or on the building,” he said. “Intellectually, I have trouble making a distinction.”

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