A state policy group headed by a U.S. Senate candidate recommended that states require a warrant before conducting government surveillance using drones, and that they adopt stricter privacy restrictions than required by federal law.
In a policy paper, the Aerospace States Association (ASA), which met in Washington for an annual conference, called on states to prohibit unnamed aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, from tracking specific individuals without their consent; to limit the use, retention, and “repurposing” of data collected by drones by police departments; and to prohibit them from carrying weapons in commercial airspace.
“The paper we are releasing today, I believe, strikes a fine balance between protecting individual privacy rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment and exploiting the significant economic and humanitarian benefits of UAS technology,” said Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, ASA chairman, told the conference. Treadwell is also the favorite to win the Republican nomination and go on to defeat U.S. Senator Mark Begich.
“Last year, when Congress mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration create a plan to integrate UAS in the national airspace, I don’t think anyone anticipated that their progress would be so long delayed by a widespread concern over privacy rights,” Treadwell said, who says that paper treats drones with “certain skepticism.”
“I’m not eager, as a privacy advocate, when that same technology allows anyone — whether it’s a government official, a private contractor, a potential burglar or even a peeping Tom — to hover around my house and persistently surveil what’s going on my property and invade my privacy, and to do so without even the hassle of trespassing on my land or climbing a tree,” said Treadwell.
“If you don’t stand up for privacy, there will be no UAS industry. But in the end we want both,” Treadwell said.
“Recently, I re-read George Orwell’s book 1984. It’s still scary. Every freedom-loving American should read it, to make sure we don’t have to live it,” he continued. “Unmanned aircraft can save lives. But unlike a helicopter hovering overhead, they can be silent, persistent eyes that remove all presumption of privacy. If states take action to protect privacy, we can have the huge economic benefits these machines will provide.”