Surveillance Gone Too Far? Individual Reactions to the Use of Drones in Urban Areas.
Surveillance , UAV , Drone , Space , Privacy , Visibility , Exposure
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), popularly referred to as ‘drones’, have increased in popularity over the past two decades. Various concerns have been raised about their implementation, primarily focusing on their surveillance capabilities. Through an intervention explanatory sequential design 80 participants (50F/30M) in South Eastern Ontario, Canada, were either exposed to a UAV (Experimental = 40) or not (Control = 40) and were given a word association task. From these participants, a subsample of 16 (F=7, M=9) respondents (8 from both groups) was taken for semi-structured interviews. The findings from the word association task indicate that the control group associated UAVs with more military applications and less positive admirations while the experimental group had the exact opposite results. Additionally, both conditions and genders found surveillance associations to be related to UAVs. Results from the semi-structured interviews indicate that individuals are influenced by previous knowledge surrounding UAVs and are primarily concerned about the surveillance implications for the following reasons: exposures to privacy, chilling/conforming behaviours, feelings of unease, signifies ‘Big Brother’, mobile cameras, gendered notions of surveillance and operation, and influences crime control and perception. Further qualitative analysis revealed that even though both genders found surveillance of UAVs to be an issue, they do so for different reasoning. Females were more likely to indicate the UAV being used to observe their body while males were more concerned with general uses of voyeurism. Overall, UAVs have the potential to evoke a sense of ‘surveillance gone too far’ depending on the context in which they are used. It is speculated that this aversion arises out of the power-space-visuality relationship UAVs hold, causing reactions to become more visceral.