Sunday, July 15, 2012

Training ethics

The New York times raises an interesting ethics question. Are there real moral problems "practicing" on unwitting civilians if it has no real impact on their lives? (This question has real repercussions for my line of work too.)

In the story, drones are "tracking" civilian cars, presumably in the US, simply to give the drone pilots practice in tracking things. If my car was being tracked just so someone can practice looking at me from 20,000 feet, I'd certainly feel uncomfortable. And what if the US Air Force discovered something they didn't like, would they act on it? Does that violate federal surveillance laws? What if the drone happened upon a drug deal or something worse? Does practicing on unwitting american violate the Posse Comitatus Act?

Secondly (and not mentioned by the story), what if the Air Force practiced on foreigners? Would that make a difference? Would if violate the sovereignty of that country? If some other country was doing it to the US, I am sure we'd freak out. Is it any different than observing random strangers in some foreign country with a satellite? Is that legal?

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