Domestic Drones

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 public’s representatives, not by police departments, and the policies should be clear, written, and open to the public.

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.

Click here for information on the U.S. government’s use of drones overseas for targeted killings.

Friday Links Roundup For August 24

Friday Links Roundup For August 24

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:36pm
On July 30, the Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia announced a review of license plate scanning programs by law enforcement in the province. If the United States had an analogous institution embodying /enforcing our privacy values, maybe we’d see something like that here instead of untrammeled expansion and retention of license data. We’re still waiting for the “missing in action” Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to turn into something real. From 2007 until late 2011, neither President Bush nor President Obama even nominated anyone to fill the independent oversight board; we finally now have four members—but still no chair.
Ban on Arming Domestic Drones: Let’s Draw a Line in the Sand

Ban on Arming Domestic Drones: Let’s Draw a Line in the Sand

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 7:44am

Last week Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and the House of Representatives drew an important line in the sand. Holt offered an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill to bar any DHS funding for “the purchase, operation, or…

Domestic Drones: Hear About Who’s Watching You from Above

Domestic Drones: Hear About Who’s Watching You from Above

By Josh Bell, Media Strategist, ACLU at 9:44am

The ACLU recently released a report prompted by the increasing use of surveillance drones by U.S. law enforcement and other agencies. It finds that current privacy protections are lacking, and recommends that new federal rules for domestic drones are…

Capability is Driving Policy, Not Just at the NSA But Also in Police Departments

Capability is Driving Policy, Not Just at the NSA But Also in Police Departments

By Catherine Crump, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 11:25am

If you’re concerned about the dragnet nature of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, then you should also pay attention to what your local police department is doing. You may find that the dragnet surveillance happening there has…

Three Reasons the Drone Industry Should Support Privacy Protections

Three Reasons the Drone Industry Should Support Privacy Protections

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:31am

As I mentioned recently, lobbying by Boeing contributed to the defeat (for now) of drone privacy legislation in Washington state. In fact, we are starting to see a few of the many legislative proposals for regulating drones die in state legislatures…

Even Amidst a Host of Congressional Priorities, Drones Makes the Cut

Even Amidst a Host of Congressional Priorities, Drones Makes the Cut

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:00am

While Congress has been considering the idea of regulating domestic drone use for some time, yesterday kicked off the debate in earnest when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on "The Future of Drones in America:…

New Documents Reveal U.S. Marshals’ Drones Experiment, Underscoring Need for Government Transparency

New Documents Reveal U.S. Marshals’ Drones Experiment, Underscoring Need for Government Transparency

By Naomi Gilens, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 8:12am

The use of surveillance drones is growing rapidly in the United States...

Is All (Drone) Politics Local?

Is All (Drone) Politics Local?

By Matthew Cagle, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Fellow, ACLU of Northern California at 4:15pm

The next time a cop sees a picture of you, that picture may not have been taken by a person at all. Unmanned flying drones can allow their operators to remotely...

ACLU Asking the Federal Government How It’s Using Drones Inside the U.S.

ACLU Asking the Federal Government How It’s Using Drones Inside the U.S.

By Scott Bulua & Stephen Elkind, NYU School of Law ACLU Technology Law & Policy Clinic at 9:56am

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a drone armed with an arsenal of video surveillance technology!

Friday Links Roundup

Friday Links Roundup

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 2:52pm

A few links that have caught our eye this past week:

Earlier this month in response to the Pauls’ Internet Manifesto I pointed out that the internet “was created by the government.” Monday Gordon Crovitz wrote a column arguing…

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