Google's Eric Schmidt calls for civilian drones to be regulated

"How would you feel if your neighbour bought an observation drone that they can launch from their backyard?" asks the Google chairman.

Joe Svetlik Reporter
Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.
Joe Svetlik
2 min read

Google's executive chairman is no stranger to privacy concerns. But here he is speaking out against the use of drones by us regular Joes, saying they could infringe on our privacy, and that we should regulate them.

In a subscriber-only interview with the Guardian, quoted by the BBC, Schmidt posed the scenario: "You're having a dispute with your neighbour. How would you feel if your neighbour went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard? It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?"

Drones are mostly used in warfare at the moment, but consumer models such as the Parrot AR.Drone could pose a threat to civil liberties, Schmidt reckons.

He also warned terrorists could easily use them. "I'm not going to pass judgement on whether armies should exist," he said, "but I would prefer to not spread and democratise the ability to fight war to every single human being.

"It's got to be regulated... It's one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they're doing, but have other people doing it... it's not going to happen."

So Google mapping the world on StreetView is fine, but we can't be trusted with surveillance tech? Doesn't that seem like double standards?

Schmidt also took to Google Plus to predict everyone in the world will be online by 2020. "For every person online, there are two who are not," he wrote. "By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected."

There's a way to go, considering 7 million of us Brits have never used the Internet. But we're getting there, with some rural areas finally getting online. Google recently extended its superfast fibre service to Austin, Texas, so at least Schmidt is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Do you agree with Schmidt? Or should Google itself be better regulated? Have your say in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.