Preserve the pluses of drone technology

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We’re all for encouraging the advancement of technology, but clearly there are limits.

Specifically, limits should come into play in the deployment of drones, the unmanned aerial robotic devices that enable the operators to see and do things that otherwise would not be possible or as efficient.

These devices first came to the public’s attention with the use of drones in military surveillance and on the battlefield. Of late, deployment for news-gathering purposes — the ability to take photographs at public events and gatherings, such as a football game or an assembled crowd of protesters — has been noted.

And then there is the use of drones by people looking into what other people are doing on their personal property. This use of drones for intrusive surveillance is the area of greatest concern, as it should be.

Not long ago we read of a boat owner tagged with not properly registering his craft in the community and state in which he lived. The evidence came from a drone photograph. But it’s reasonable to argue evasion of taxes was not reason enough to justify invading the privacy of this and all other nearby property owners by someone on a fishing expedition, if that is what this was.

We’re not experts in unlawful search and seizure, but the principles are well understood to most people: The government and law enforcement are entitled to drive past your property and inquire into things visible in plain sight. Deploying something similar to a model helicopter to snoop over your back fence — without probable cause — is a step too far.

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