Domestic drones and face-recognition technology are ‘scary’ and inevitable, Bloomberg says

An AR.Drone quadricopter. (James A Artis via Flickr)
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"It's scary, but what's the difference whether the drone is up in the air or on the building," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today during his weekly appearance on the John Gambling radio show, when Gambling asked him his thoughts on the use of domestic drones by the NYPD or any other entity. "I mean intellectually I'd have trouble making a distinction. And you know, you're gonna have face-recognition software. People are working on that. ... You can't keep the tides from coming in. We're gonna have more visibility and less privacy. I don't see how you stop that."

In December, the New York Times editorial board warned that "the unmanned aircraft that most people associate with hunting terrorists and striking targets in Pakistan are on the brink of evolving into a big domestic industry," and urged Congress to protect Americans' right to privacy.

"This is something that society really has to think about, and not by writing a quick piece of legislation," said Bloomberg this morning. "These are long-term serious problems."

The issue arose during a discussion about traffic-enforcement cameras. Bloomberg would like there to be many more red-light and speeding cameras, but he needs Albany's approval to install them. Thus far Albany has been reluctant to oblige, in part due to concerns from the police union that the more widespread use of such cameras will mean fewer jobs.

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"We should have red light cameras everyplace, why not?" said Bloomberg this morning. "If you break the law, why not do it? And we should not use our police officers for that. Our police officers have too much to do. They put their lives in danger all the time. ... It isn't gonna result in any fewer police officers being employed. It'll just make them more valuable because they can work on more important stuff, like bringing crime down or preventing crime to begin with."