A poll conducted by Monmouth University
and cited in a Government Accountability Office report published yesterday indicates that only 15 percent of Americans say they are "not at all concerned" that the use of drones by law enforcement will invade their privacy.
At the same time, 67 percent say they are opposed to police using drones to issue speeding tickets.
The GAO report
said that law enforcement agencies are "the greatest potential users" of small drones within the United States.
"Domestically, state and local law enforcement entities represent the greatest potential users of small UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] in the near term because they can offer a simple and cost effective solution for airborne law enforcement activities," said the GAO report.
"For example, federal officials and one airborne law enforcement official said that a small UAS costing between $30,000 and $50,000 is more likely to be purchased by state and local law enforcement entities because the cost is nearly equivalent to that of a patrol car and much less than a manned aircraft," said GAO. "According to an industry trade group, local law enforcement can potentially choose from about 146 different types of small UAS being manufactured by about 69 different companies in the U.S."
Noting that some Americans, including members of Congress, had questioned the use of drones for conducting surveillance on Americans within the United States, the GAO report pointed to the results of the Monmouth poll, which had been conducted in June.
"Concerns include the potential for increased amounts of government surveillance using technologies placed on UAS, the collection and use of such data, and potential violations of constitutional Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure," said GAO. "Additionally, a June 2012 poll conducted by Monmouth University reported that 42 percent of those sampled were very concerned about their own privacy if U.S. law enforcement started using UAS with high tech cameras, while 15 percent said they were not at all concerned."
The Monmouth poll surveyed a random sample of 1,708 American adults. Respondents were asked: "How concerned would you be about your own privacy if U.S. law enforcement started using unmanned drones with high tech cameras? Would you be very concerned, somewhat concerned, only a little concerned, or not at all concerned?" 42 percent said they would be very concerned, 22 percent said they would be somewhat concerned, 16 percent said they would be only a little concerned, 15 percent said they would not be concerned at all, and 4 percent said they didn't know.
Only 23 percent said they supported the use of drones to issue speeding tickets, while 67 percent said they opposed that.
By contrast, 64 percent said they supported the use of drones to control illegal immigration at the border, while only 24 percent opposed it.
Also, 67 percent said they supported the use of drones to track down runaway criminals, while 22 percent opposed it.
80 percent supported the use of drones in search and rescue missions, and 11 percent opposed it.
As CNSNews.com previously reported, between January and mid-July of this year, the FAA approved 106 government agencies to operate drones in domestic airspace. According to GAO, the FAA has also given four drone manufacturers authorization for experimental use of drones within the United States.
"Only federal, state, and local government agencies can apply for and be granted a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA); private sector entities (civil operators) may apply for special airworthiness certificates in the experimental category that allows them to operate UAS," says the GAO report released Tuesday. "Between January 1, 2012, and July 13, 2012, FAA issued 342 COAs to 106 federal, state, and local government entities across the United States, including law enforcement entities as well as academic institutions. Over the same time period, FAA issued 8 special airworthiness certifications for experimental use to 4 UAS manufacturers."