Creeps Embrace a New Tool: Peeping Drones

by Michael B Marois  |  published on May 5, 2015

It was the blinking lights outside the 10th-story window of her San Jose, California, condo that startled Elsvette Buenaventura from her bed last year. When she drew back the curtain, a small drone hovered a few feet away. In the days that followed, it returned at least three more times.

Such stories have prompted lawmakers in a half-dozen U.S. states to outlaw the use of drones to snoop on people’s homes. More states are set to follow.

“We don’t know what he was looking for with his camera-drone,” said Buenaventura, 32. “All we felt was a violation of our privacy.”

For less than $1,000, small, remotely operated aircraft are increasingly available on the Internet and at hobby stores, and some can be equipped with equally affordable high-definition cameras. At the same time, some of America’s biggest companies — names like Chevron Corp. and BNSF Railway Co. — are pushing to use drones for everything from pipeline inspection to land surveys. Their use has pushed lawmakers to weigh the rights of drone pilots against the potential for nefarious intrusions.

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