e liberty vs. privacy debate
Drones raise concerns: Before approving the purchase of drones, county legislators should have specific rules on how they will be used.
By Robert Mackey, guest writer for The Commercial Appeal
Who is Robert Mackey?
Robert Mackey is a reporter for the New York Times, where he is the editor and main writer of The Lede, a new blog, and a contributor to Timescast, adaliy NYTimes.com news broadcast.
Before he took over The Lede at the stsrt of 2009, he was a Web producer on the Foreign desk of The Times, producing audio slide shows and interviews to accompany articles
Monday, May 7, 2012
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office wants to buy two remote-controlled drone helicopters to add to its law enforcement arsenal.
The County Commission today will weigh the drones’ potential benefits to law enforcement efforts against privacy issues in deciding whether to approve the purchase.
Commissioners voted 7-3 in committee Wednesday to recommend using a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to buy the small drones and other equipment, including scuba gear.
Commissioner Heidi Shafer, who cast one of the no votes Wednesday, was on target in describing what she and fellow commissioners will have to weigh today before they vote on the recommendation — the old debate of liberty versus security.
Some unease is understandable over the notion of giving law enforcement another technological tool that could intrude into citizens’ privacy if it is not used properly and ethically.
These drones, which have the capacity to be fitted with sophisticated audio-visual equipment, have the versatility to do that.
But here’s another way to look at it. Most of us never think about the fact that technology already has put a big dent in our privacy.
Our cellphones and cars, for example, are equipped with GPS devices that constantly track us. When we log on to the Web, there are those in the Internet netherworld who track our searches and, in some cases, sell that information to advertisers.
There are people-search websites that, for a price, turn up all kinds of information about a person, including his or her phone number and the names of relatives.
The difference is that an individual can take action, if he or she wants to, to avoid at least some of those privacy intrusions. That’s not the case with the technological tools used by law enforcement.
Still, the drones have real potential to improve the department’s efficiency and reduce costs. For $3.80 an hour, they could do much of the same work as a manned helicopter, which costs $680 an hour to operate. And in some cases, use of the drones could lower the risk of physical injury to officers conducting investigations of criminal activities.
Before they decide whether to approve the purchase, though, county commissioners should ensure the sheriff’s office has clear and specific rules about when, where and how the drones will be used.
Part A, Vocabulary in context
Use complete sentences.
1- Some unease is understandable over the notion of giving law enforcement another technological tool that could intrude into citizens’ privacy if it is not used properly and ethically.
2- The difference is that an individual can take action, if he or she wants to, to avoid at least some of those privacy intrusions.
Part B, Comprehension and Analysis
Use your own words
3- How reliable is this article? Explain your answer.
4- How objective or biased is this text? Explain your answer.
5- The author presents both sides, first stating the arguments against the drones. What are the benefits to having the drones?
6- In the final paragraph, Mackey concludes that, “Before they decide whether to approve the purchase, though, county commissioners should ensure the sheriff’s office has clear and specific rules about when, where and how the drones will be used.” Summarize this claim in your own words.
7- How well does the author support the claim from question 6?
8- The author explains that technology has “put a big dent” in our privacy. Explain one way that we have lost privacy due to technology.