On Drones

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During class, it was interesting to hear about people’s opinions on drones. The general feeling seems to be one more of caution and fear than one of excitement over the developing technological breakthroughs that are occurring. Perhaps it is my naïveté or my overconfidence in the humanity of people, but I’m inclined to think that people, at least those purchasing drones from commercial makers, will be using them for relatively harmless purposes, whether to fly things recreationally or for photo and video purposes.

Of course, this comes with my own biases, as a drone owner. Last fall, I purchased a DJI Mavic Pro, which is one of the most popular consumer-level drones. Priced at a bit over $1,000, it was a big investment for me. Only after purchasing it did I begin looking into the regulations around flying in Boston. They’re pretty reasonable, and largely outlined here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/faqs/#ffr. I registered my drone, paying the $5 or $10 without much complaint. I’m not entirely sure what that registration really does, but it emailed me a little certificate with a number that I’ve never referenced once since. I’d say the majority of people who purchase drones and use them as hobbyists are doing it for fun or for photography or videography purposes. The percentage of people spending upwards of a thousand dollars to surveil people is relatively small. It’s important to consider the image quality derived from a drone that costs a thousand dollars. It’s not superb, especially when you’re flying overhead at at least 100 feet in the air. At least for me, I don’t think I would be able to discern and identify individuals from the imagery I collect.

I do believe drones should be regulated, especially at the pace at which the technology is developing. I don’t think it is fair to make it more difficult than it already is for people to fly drones recreationally. I do think policies surrounding drone usage should be standardized across states. Nothing is more irritating than traveling to another country and realizing it will cost another $x to register your drone for your week-long visit. Generally, legislation always lags behind technology. And so, I am sympathetic to policymakers, however it is not an excuse for a coherent and sensible set of laws on drone regulation. There needs to be greater distinction between drone users, other than hobbyists and commercial/professional flyers. Perhaps a classification distinguishing between those using it for photography and surveillance and other purposes. Overall, drones are an incredibly exciting technology, allowing for greater exploration of our natural landscapes, but can also pose as a safety and privacy threat — we can only hope that lawmakers will be able to formulate sensible policies moving forward.

Privacy Policy for Orvis

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I recently decided to try to purge some of the promotional emails I repeated received. One brand that I came across was Orvis, which I do not think I have ever purchased any items from or visited. According to Wikipedia, “Orvis is a family-owned retail and mail-order business specializing in high-end fly fishing, hunting and sporting goods. Founded in Manchester, Vermont, in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis to sell fishing tackle, it is the oldest mail-order retailer in the United States.” I recently did learn to fly fish, but wouldn’t consider buying anything described as “high-end” related to fly fishing. So I unsubscribed.

The line under the link to unsubscribe was a link to their Online Privacy Policy, accompanied by the statement, “Orvis respects your right to privacy.” So I clicked on the privacy policy and read on. [Link here: https://www.orvis.com/s/orvis-privacy-policy/107?cm_mmc=orvisemail-_-spm-_-18_09_17_xcat-_-footer_privacy&adv=619332&et_cid=258014&et_rid=7776344]

It is prefaced with a very plain text paragraph stating how Orvis respects you and your privacy, defines personally identifiable information for consumers, and provides contact information. It is followed by a dozen sections, each with a couple subsections. It is pretty thorough, with a section detailing how they use your email and a section on children using the site (not intended for people under 13 years old — perhaps fly fishing is a 14 and up sport only ???). They also mention that their privacy policy was last updated in 2018. Users also have the opportunity, under the EU GDPR, to request a copy of the personal data they’ve provided to Orvis. I haven’t read too many (read: no other) privacy policies of online retailers, but theirs seems pretty kosher. It’s straightforward, easy to understand (they make good use of bulleted lists), and are consumer-oriented in their accommodations. Overall, it was a good first privacy policy to read. Because a customer’s interaction with orvis.com is unlikely to be particularly intrusive (save for the possibility of stealing credit card information), their privacy policy seems to be standard and not particularly complex.

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