A new bill coauthored by a Bay Area congresswoman would establish due process protections for Americans against government-operated unmanned aerial drones in U.S. airspace.
H.R. 637, the Preserving American Privacy Act by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, would also forbid law enforcement and private drones from being armed with firearms or explosives while operating within U.S. airspace.
“The expanded use of drones on U.S. soil raises serious Constitutional and civil liberties issues that Congress needs to address,” Lofgren said in a news release. “These devices should be used in a safe, open, and responsible manner. This bill would ensure that drones follow strict guidelines to protect Americans’ privacy while still realizing their practical applications for science, border security, public safety, and commercial development.”
Said Poe: “Just because Big Brother can look into someone’s backyard doesn’t mean it should. Technology may change, but the Constitution does not.”
The bill would require that government agencies must obtain a warrant to use drones to collect information that can identify individuals in a private area, and get a court order and provide public notice beforehand to collect information that can identify individuals in defined public areas. Those requirements would be subject to exceptions for emergencies, border security and consent, however.
The bill also would forbid privately-operated drones from being used to capture images or sound recordings of people engaging in personal activities in certain circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.