The city’s police commissioner, Ed Davis, told the Boston Herald that using the aerial surveillance technology during next year’s race is “a great idea.”
“I don’t know that would be the first place I’d invest money, but certainly to cover an event like this, and have an eye in the sky that would be much cheaper to run than a helicopter is a really good idea,” Davis said.
Davis’ interest in drones comes after the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 on April 15.
Davis also told WBZ NewsRadio that, “there are certainly serious privacy concerns that we have to consider before we do something like that.”
The Herald praised the idea in an editorial on Friday, arguing that “there may be no more useful tool” to help law enforcement prevent another attack:
Surveillance drones can be a useful tool for law enforcement, and like it or not they’re coming to a city near you. It is important that their use be restrained, with proper oversight to prevent abuse. But in an emergency situation, there may be no more useful tool.
Privacy advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the growing use of domestic drones. The group argues that, because the technology is relatively inexpensive, drones are likely to be used more and more frequently across the country.
The ACLU also warns that, unlike police helicopters, drones pose unique and potentially dangerous privacy concerns if they aren’t tightly regulated.
Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald has expressed similar concerns:
The fact is that drones vest vast new powers that police helicopters and existing weapons do not vest: and that’s true not just for weaponization but for surveillance. Drones enable a Surveillance State unlike anything we’ve seen. Because small drones are so much cheaper than police helicopters, many more of them can be deployed at once, ensuring far greater surveillance over a much larger area. Their small size and stealth capability means they can hover without any detection, and they can remain in the air for far longer than police helicopters.