Drones, developed for military use at war, are increasingly being deployed over U.S. skies, looking for everything from suspicious people along the border to missing people to fishing violations.

Clearly, Americans are losing yet more expectation of privacy.

Though there is no evidence they have been yet, the unmanned aircraft could be outfitted with cameras and facial recognition programs to spy on anyone out of doors.

And recent revelations that the Customs and Border Protection Agency is considering equipping them with “nonlethal weapons” should give Americans even more concern.

The agency has loaned its drones to other agencies for domestic spying, 30 times in 2010, increasing to 250 last year. Among the agencies that have used them are the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Dakota Army National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety and the US Forest Service.

Though drones could offer a tool for national security, the increasing use and the potential for equipping them with weapons show a need for Congress to set up rules to govern their use and procedures to ensure adequate oversight of their use.

Some states also have proposed rules regarding their use.

The American Civil Liberties Union has recommended limits on their usage, data retention and weapons, and said policies regarding their use should be developed by the public, not law enforcement agencies, and the rules should be clear and open to the public.

It’s time for states and Congress to set up the rules that will protect Americans from misuse of this new technology.

— Reporter-Herald,

Loveland, Colo., July 17

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