The US military is commencing wide-area surveillance balloon tests in a total of six Midwest states. These tests will be launched, in the literal sense, by making use of experimental high-altitude balloons. These surveillance experiments were announced via documents that were filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). However, they are getting a lot of criticism on account of lack of transparency.
About 25 unmanned solar-powered balloons will be launched in rural South Dakota. These balloons will be drifting about 250 miles through an area that includes Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri before making their stop in central Illinois. The balloons will be traveling at stratospheric altitudes of about 65,000 feet. They will feature hi-tech radars that have been designed for tracking more than one individual vehicles during daytime as well as nighttime through any kind of weather.
The documents were filed on behalf of aerospace and defense company Sierra Nevada Corporation, and state that the purpose of these balloon tests is to ‘to provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotics trafficking and homeland security threats.’ The tests have been able to receive an FCC license for operating from mid-July until September.
Jan Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, ‘We do not think that American cities should be subject to wide-area surveillance in which every vehicle could be tracked wherever they go. Even in tests, they’re still collecting a lot of data on Americans: who’s driving to the union house, the church, the mosque, the Alzheimer’s clinic. [We would like to know] what they are they doing with that data, how they are storing it, and whether they are contemplating deploying this in the US.’
These balloon tests are being conducted when there is already a rising fear about how our data is being employed into manipulating us by private companies as well as governments. The term ‘surveillance capitalism’ refers to how our private data is now a trillion-dollar industry. What do you think of these balloon tests?