One of the things that comes through in the growing body of behind-the-scenes reports on Google is that the company sometimes gets surprised when people question its attempts at world domination. After all, they seem to think, our intentions are good, so why should anyone be nervous? Our motto is "Don't be evil"! This is what happened when the company began its project to digitize every book ever written -- they hadn't anticipated that libraries and authors might be a little freaked out.
I raise this because of news we get from Popular Science that Google is thinking about purchasing an army of drones, the better to prepare themselves for their inevitable war against the U.S. government. OK, not really. Nevertheless...
There's no question that the future of warfare, espionage, and clandestine operations is moving rapidly toward reliance on drone aircraft. But should citizens grow restless when this technology moves into the private sector? A German drone maker claims Google is trialing one of its drones, a battery-powered surveillance quadcopter previously used by UK police and special forces. What the search giant and alleged Wi-Fi data collector plans to do with the drone is unclear, but it seems likely that this isn't going to sit well with privacy advocates.
Every technology company needs surveillance quadcopters, right? And they're so cute! All kidding aside, we tend to forget, when we hear about our military's use of drones in Afghanistan, that this technology is not only getting more sophisticated, it's also getting cheaper and smaller. We're not the only ones who have military drones -- multiple countries do (the Chinese are working particularly hard at developing them). And I'll bet lots of private corporations could find good reasons to deploy them. Think of the possibilities: What if "helicopter parents" could deploy an actual tiny helicopter to hover over their kids as they play in the park, delivering a constant video feed? There's a market there just waiting to be tapped.
-- Paul Waldman