House drone hearing set for Friday

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Members of a House Judiciary subcommittee will convene Friday morning to examine the privacy implications of introducing aerial drones into domestic airspace.

Controversy over the introduction of domestic unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly called “drones,” for commercial, academic and law enforcement use has stemmed from the ability to attach surveillance cameras to the aerial platforms.

Civil liberties experts from the American Civil Liberties Union, Boston University School of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law and the Brookings Institution are expected to brief members of Congress on their concerns.

The ACLU said in a media advisory ahead of the hearing that it recommends “strong privacy protections governing government drone use should include restrictions on usage and image retention, promote transparency and democratic control, and ban weaponization.”

Industry associations representing law enforcement and UAS manufacturers have sought to delineate between the UAS platform and attachable cameras. The cameras, they argue, would at least require a license to operate.

Law enforcement representatives have also objected to the weaponization of domestic unmanned aerial systems, citing public safety concerns.

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