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No Drones Over Seattle – City Cancels Program and Returns Unit to Supplier!

Seattle cancels drone program
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Citing a backlash from the community and questions over privacy, Seattle has scrubbed its surveillance program.

Seattle was one of 50 cities that received permission from federal authorities to test unmanned surveillance aircraft. It was given over $82,000 in grant money. Last October, the city showed off the tiny Dragonflyer X6, which police planned to use to obtain aerial footage of crime scenes.

However, the public unveiling was attended by numerous angry protestors and citizens who said it would severely violate their privacy. Police had just begun to map out coordinates to determine where the drones would be used and had begun to develop rules for that use when the cancellation notice came Friday.

Mayor Mike McGinn’s decision was called premature by some city council members. The ACLU, who had been helping write the rules for use by the police, said they applauded the mayor’s decision due to a large number of unanswered questions and ethical issues.

One of the biggest objections from the community was what would be done with video footage taken from the drones, and how long would the police save it?

As for the $82,000-plus in federal grant money used to get the drones? According to city council members who reportedly asked police chief John Diaz, Seattle doesn’t get it back.

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