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.

Republican Party Platform Advocates Regulation of Drone Surveillance

Republican Party Platform Advocates Regulation of Drone Surveillance

By Naomi Gilens, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 12:03pm
The Republican Party’s 2012 platform, unveiled at the RNC Tuesday, includes this reference to domestic drone surveillance:
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…

Police Chiefs Issue Recommendations on Drones; A Look At How They Measure Up

Police Chiefs Issue Recommendations on Drones; A Look At How They Measure Up

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:39am

The International Association of Chiefs of Police recently approved “Recommended Guidelines for the use of Unmanned Aircraft.”

The IACP is to be applauded for addressing this issue, and for issuing recommendations that are quite…

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…

Friday Links Roundup

Friday Links Roundup

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 3:30pm

The New York Times and Propublica jointly published an editorial last week entitled, “That’s Not My Phone, It’s My Tracker.” The authors review the sorry state of cell phone location privacy, raise and dismiss privacy-protecting…

Friday links roundup

Friday links roundup

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:47pm

A roundup of some items that caught our eye recently, but we haven’t had a chance to write about.

San Francisco’s MUNI train system is installing new “intelligent” cameras that will track and monitor commuters, raising…

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…

Free Future Friday links roundup

Free Future Friday links roundup

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:20am

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

The Citynewswatch blog in Charlotte, NC has a nice post on that city’s new license plate reader program, among other surveillance systems (pity any city that hosts a major national…

Extreme Traffic Enforcement

Extreme Traffic Enforcement

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 2:05pm

In a recent post I pointed out various ways that license plate recognition devices could be combined with other databases to invade privacy.

One obvious use for ALPR that I did not mention is speeding tickets. If you’ve gotten from point…

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (5/11/2012)

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (5/11/2012)

By Anna Salem, ACLU of Northern California at 2:52pm

In the digital age that we live in today, we are constantly exposing our personal information online. From using cell phones and GPS devices to online shopping and sending e-mail, the things we do and say online leave behind ever-growing trails of…

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