First, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a story about "a new cellphone tracking system authorized for purchase by the Fort Worth City Council this week."
The KingFish system, which gives police the ability to track cellphones without having to go through a provider or service, will cost more than $184,000 during its first year of operation, according to a memo prepared for City Council prior to its vote.Fortunately Texas state law is actually better developed than federal law on this question, and the Fort Worth police would absolutely be required to get a
The memo said that Fort Worth police officers have already utilized the technology and have received training from agents with the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Marshal's task force, agencies that have assisted the police in using the tracking system in the past. The KingFish units are mobile and can be mounted on a vehicle or carried by officers in the field.
Those concerned about the technology's capabilities worry that police will use the system to monitor the movements of suspects or subjects of its investigations without first obtaining warrants or a judge's permission.
Another problem with spending that much on a piece of technology is that then the agency will feel compelled to find reasons to use it, if only to reduce the cost-per-case figure when trying to justify the expense in the budget..
Then, at CNBC there's an item about the increasing use of drones by civilian police agencies, news media and an array of other possible users. The story opens:
Heads up: Drones are going mainstream. Civilian cousins of the unmanned military aircraft that have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird's-eye view that's too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.
Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms.Drones overhead could invade people's privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground, concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology.Despite that, pressure is building to give drones the same access as manned aircraft to the sky at home.
Unlike mobile tracking devices, Texas law - either our statutes or case law - are no more prepared for the challenges posed by police use of drone technology than at the federal level. There's basically a vacuum that, for now, lets police and other users do nearly whatever they want."It's going to be the next big revolution in aviation. It's coming," says Dan Elwell, the Aerospace Industries Association's vice president for civil aviation.
Every kid wants to play with the newest toy in the box, and police are no different, so these technologies are going to be used. The question is can they be adequately regulated, or will their novelty confound the courts and prevent lawmakers from adequately constraining them?