In my diary, I called for members of the Senate to start drafting legislation to keep drones from invading our privacy. Senator Mark Udall (D. CO) is doing just that:Targeted killings have made drones controversial, but a new class of tiny aircraft in the United States — cheap, able and ubiquitous — could engage in targeted snooping that existing laws are inadequate to address, witnesses and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said in a hearing on Wednesday.
The drones, or unmanned aerial systems, have already helped the police find missing people and county planners measure the growth of a landfill. But they could also be used by drug dealers, pedophiles and nosy neighbors, the witnesses and a senator said.
Surveillance by government is limited by the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and snooping by corporations and individuals is covered by privacy law and common law. But these were not written with drones in mind. The issue has taken on new urgency as the Federal Aviation Administration prepares to set forth rules for drones’ commercial use and as prices for the aircraft drop. Many states are considering legislation, but Congress is only beginning to consider the problem.
“There’s very little in American privacy law that would limit the use of drones for surveillance,” said one witness, Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law. “Drones drive down the cost of surveillance considerably. We worry that the incidence of surveillance will go up.” - New York Times, 3/20/13
Udall's announcement comes after the Senate Judiciary Committee heard advocates and critics of speeding drone technology:Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) announced that he’s working on legislation to protect privacy rights against the use of private drone operators.
"I am working to finalize legislation that will respond to the concerns of Coloradans who want to ensure that there are common-sense safeguards to protect them from the improper use of drones," Udall said in a press release Monday.
Udall said that the private sector industry for domestic drones would be good for U.S. jobs and the economy but that federal privacy protections have not kept pace with the new technology developments.
“Private sector drones and unmanned aerial systems could positively reshape numerous industries and efforts, from search-and-rescue operations to agriculture and local TV news,” Udall said. “But the only way to truly embrace these innovative, job-creating technologies, is to assure the public that these technologies will not compromise Coloradans' basic privacy rights.” - The Hill, 3/26/13
Here's what Udall is aiming for in his legislation:The Federal Aviation Administration estimates there could be as many as 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles in U.S. airspace within the next decade. Udall is committed to ensuring that emerging technologies such as private drones do not infringe on constitutional rights or threaten the personal safety of Americans.
Legislation Congress passed last year recognized the need for reasonable regulations to responsibly drive the unmanned aerial systems market, proposing as a first step the establishment of six unmanned aerial systems test sites across the country. An alliance of organizations and businesses in Colorado is preparing to submit an application to the FAA for one of the six unmanned aerial systems test sites, an effort Udall supports. - udall.senate.gov, 3/25/13
Udall has a terrific record on civil liberties. I wrote about it here:According to Udall's statement, current privacy safeguards at the state and federal levels "have not kept pace with the technology's capabilities." His legislation would "update safeguards to protect Americans from being surveilled by private drone operators without their consent, addressing concerns raised by his constituents while helping to head off possible legal problems for an emerging and potentially important industry for Colorado."
In a recent report, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International claimed the domestic drone industry could create as many as 70,000 new jobs and $13.6 billion in economic growth in just three years -- if federal and state regulations are not too onerous. - Huffington Post, 3/25/13
I trust Udall in drafting legislation that will prohibit drone technology from violating our civil liberties and privacy. I look forward to his legislation. If you'd like to donate to Udall's 2014 campaign so he can continue to fight to protect our civil liberties, please donate to his 2014 re-election campaign: