“In the past year, it’s become more about privacy than safety,” says Brendan Schulman, special counsel at the law firm Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel, who is defending a client against the FAA in its first civilian drone case. People just don’t want snoopy robots spying on them.
Commentator Charles Krauthammer summed up that sentiment on Fox News in 2012 when he said, “I would predict—I’m not encouraging—but I predict the first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that’s been hovering over his house is going to be a folk hero in this country.” Don’t dismiss such fiery talk as the ravings of a pundit bent on making news. Indeed, there have already been some domestic drone downings: An animal-rights group attempting to document the cruelty of “pigeon shoots” has had a camera-equipped multicopter blown out of the air more than once.
Ryan Calo, a professor of law at the University of Washington, in Seattle, calls robotic aircraft a “privacy catalyst” because people have responded to them more strongly than to other kinds of surveillance technology. “You can visualize it, unlike what the [National Security Agency] is doing,” says Calo. “You get this visceral reaction to drones. Drones are part of a larger disconnect between how quickly surveillance technology evolves and how slowly privacy law does.”