Representative Ted Poe’s Preserving American Privacy Act of 2012 (H.R. 6199) would restrict the domestic use of drones. It would only permit use of drones by law enforcement pursuant to a warrant and in the investigation of a felony. Any search would be subject to the\ same limitations and exceptions as apply in the jurisdiction where the search is conducted. There is an express exclusionary provision so that evidence obtained in violation of the act would be inadmissible in a federal criminal prosecution. Such evidence would also be excluded from administrative hearings. Additionally, no federal agency may permit a private entity from [sic] monitoring an individual. The bill has an exception for searches conducted within 25 miles of the national border.Bully for Congressman Poe! The bill has 25 cosponsors in the House including four other GOP Texas congressmen: Michael Burgess, John Culberson, Louie Gohmert, and Francisco 'Quico' Canseco. Acording to the CRS report:
Although relatively few drones are currently flown over U.S. soil, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that 30,000 drones will fill the nation’s skies in less than 20 years. Congress has played a large role in this expansion. In February 2012, Congress enacted the FAA Modernization and Reform Act (P.L. 112-95), which calls for the FAA to accelerate the integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system by 2015. However, some Members of Congress and the public fear there are insufficient safeguards in place to ensure that drones are not used to spy on American citizens and unduly infringe upon their fundamental privacy. These observers caution that the FAA is primarily charged with ensuring air traffic safety, and is not adequately prepared to handle the issues of privacy and civil liberties raised by drone use.The bill (see the text) would prohibit the FAA from approving drone use by law enforcement "including by any State or local government, except pursuant to warrant and in the investigation of a felony." The bill would also prohibit drone use by "any private person to conduct surveillance on any other private person without the consent of that other private person or the owner of any real property on which that other private person is present."
Grits sees no reason why this should be a partisan issue and hopes many more in Congress sign on. We've already seen state and local law enforcement agencies entering the drone market, so if the federal legislation doesn't pass, the Texas Legislature should follow Rep. Poe's lead and require warrants for use of drones by Texas state and local law enforcement and prohibit their use for surveillance by private individuals.
H/T: Fierce Homeland Security.
MORE: From Digital Trends, see: "Drones: 13 things you need to know from Congress' new report."