Drones are becoming a darling of law enforcement authorities in the U.S., says the New York Times. They have given rise to fears of government surveillance even before they take to the skies. That has prompted local and state lawmakers from Seattle to Tallahassee to proscribe how they can be used by police or to ground them altogether. “To me, it's Big Brother in the sky,” said Dave Norris, city councilman in Charlottesville, Va., which this month became the first city to restrict the use of drones. (The city doesn’t own any.) “I don't mean to sound conspiratorial about it, but these drones are coming, and we need to put some safeguards in place so they are not abused.” In Charlottesville, police officers are prohibited from using in criminal cases any evidence obtained by drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles.
Last week, the Seattle Police Department agreed to return its two still-unused drones to the manufacturer after Mayor Michael McGinn answered public protests by banning their use. On Thursday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in Oakland, Ca., listened to the county sheriff's proposal to use federal money to buy a four-pound drone to help his officers track suspected criminals, and then listened to raucous opposition, including a group that uses the Twitter handle @N.O.M.B.Y., Not Over My Back Yard.