U.S. law enforcement is greatly expanding its use of domestic drones for surveillance. Routine aerial surveillance would profoundly change the character of public life in America. Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a “surveillance society” in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the government. Drone manufacturers are also considering offering police the option of arming these remote-controlled aircraft with (nonlethal for now) weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas. Read the ACLU’s full report on domestic drones here.
Numerous states are considering (and some have passed) legislation regulating the use of drones. You can see a chart summarizing the developments around the country here. Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to change airspace rules to make it much easier for police nationwide to use domestic drones, but the law does not include badly needed privacy protections. The ACLU recommends the following safeguards:
USAGE LIMITS: Drones should be deployed by law enforcement only with a warrant, in an emergency, or when there are specific and articulable grounds to believe that the drone will collect evidence relating to a specific criminal act.
DATA RETENTION: Images should be retained only when there is reasonable suspicion that they contain evidence of a crime or are relevant to an ongoing investigation or trial.
POLICY: Usage policy on domestic drones should be decided by the publics representatives, not by police departments, and the policies should be clear, written, and open to the public.
[In addition to: public input, a public VOTE, explicit privacy protections, and public transparency measures built into the laws that must be fully and clearly defined.]
ABUSE PREVENTION & ACCOUNTABILITY: Use of domestic drones should be subject to open audits and proper oversight to prevent misuse.
WEAPONS: Domestic drones should not be equipped with lethal or non-lethal weapons.
Local law enforcement agencies are planning to use cheap drone technology to conduct criminal investigations without a warrant or any judicial authorizations, posing a serious threat to every American’s privacy.
A bill recently passed in Virginia places a moratorium on the use of drones by law enforcement for two years. It’s currently sitting on the governor’s desk, waiting to be signed. With a big push from around the country, we can help the first domino to fall in a national rethink on the use of domestic drones. Sign the petition to Governor Bob McDonnell asking him to sign the bill into law.
Concerned Citizens on Drone Testing In San Diego County: Petition for Accountability and Transparency
- ‘Eye in the sky’ drones flying in San Diego County (backcountryvoices.wordpress.com)
- Status of Domestic Drone Legislation in the States (backcountryvoices.wordpress.com)