Technology races ahead of our laws, principles and ethics. Two of the latest examples, both involving drone aircraft, are causing stirs in the Indiana General Assembly and in journalism circles.
As we wrote last week, Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, is the author of a bill designed to protect Hoosiers’ privacy in the wake of new technology.
To review, the bill requires police to obtain a search warrant before using a phone to track a person’s location or using an unmanned device — such as a drone — to gather information in most situations. It also requires law enforcement officers to get a warrant before they can demand that a person turn over his or her password for a computer, phone or other electronic device.
“I tried to pick on as many different areas as I could,” while avoiding “unintended consequences,” Koch told The Associated Press.
Koch’s bill has received support on both sides of the political divide.
Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said, “Technology is moving at such a rapid rate and there’s such an ability now with more and more ease each day to essentially collect small bits of information about our daily activities and put them in a giant database.”
That ability concerns a lot of people, including us. The state and the nation need to have long conversations about the proper uses of such technology. That’s why we’re pleased to see that Koch’s bill has passed the House and moved to the Senate, where the discussion can continue.
This week, we learned of another disturbing use of technology.
The Federal Aviation Administration has started an investigation of a drone that was used by an on-call employee for a Connecticut television station. The drone, equipped with a video camera, was hovering over the wreckage of a fatal car crash.
“Here was a dead body still on the scene. We had covered it the best we could,” Lt. Brian Foley, a Hartford police spokesman, told the AP. “You don’t want the family to see that.”
Foley also told the AP drones are appearing more frequently at crime scenes.
The drone operator was not working for the TV station that day. But the incident spotlights the growing controversy over the technology.
In some other nations, drones are commonly used to gather images for news programs. They’re even being used at the Sochi Olympics.
Drones are now relatively inexpensive, and they certainly could provide compelling images — an aerial view of storm damage, for example.
But the FAA is still working on regulations for drones’ use. The FAA already has missed several deadlines for completing those rules.
Even after the government weighs in, journalists will have to confront the safety, privacy and ethical issues that will arise. What would be the effect, for example, of small helicopters hovering over the scene of the next shooting at a school?
This is not an entirely new question. For years newspapers, including the Times-Mail, have been developing policies about the types of images we will and will not publish. The principles behind those policies might remain sound as digital technology advances. But to use the Times-Mail as an example, our policies were drawn up long before anyone could forsee the use of remote-controlled, flying video cameras. Our policies even predate the wide use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Advances in technology always will be ahead of our laws and procedures.
But we shouldn’t sacrifice sound and treasured principles simply because digital technology makes something possible.
— Times-Mail, Bedford