Rep. introduces privacy bill aimed at government spy drones
Mar 20, 2013
A Democratic Congressman is pushing legislation that would see strict privacy measures enacted to protect Americans becoming sitting targets for government “spying robots.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, who co-Chairs the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, reintroduced legislation he first put forth last year to ensure constitutional protections are maintained in the face of the huge expansion in the use of drones by law enforcement and government agencies.
Markey’s Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act (DAPTA) would require privacy protection provisions relating to data collection and minimization, disclosure, warrant requirements for law enforcement, and enforcement measures in the licensing and operation of drones.
“As drones increasingly fill our skies, Americans must be afforded a level of privacy and protection from these aerial technologies,” said Rep. Markey.
“My drone privacy bill provides transparency on the domestic use of drone aircraft and adds privacy protections that ensure this technology cannot be used to endlessly watch Americans.” The Congressman added.
The bill would specifically require the Federal Aviation Administration to include a detailed data-collection statement when considering any application for a drone license. The statement would require precise information on what data will be collected and how the party applying for the license would use it.
The bill would also require law enforcement agencies to have judicial warrants before deploying any form of drone for surveillance purposes, and it would ensure the creation of a publicly accessible database of all drone licenses, detailing the times and locations of all legally sanctioned drone flights.
“I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues on this bi-partisan issue to ensure that strong personal privacy protections and public transparency measures are put in place now, before this technology is literally hovering over our heads.” Rep. Markey wrote in a statement yesterday.
The Congressman received support from privacy groups including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
“Comprehensive legislation is necessary prior to further deployment of drones in the United States,” said Amie Stepanovich, Associate Litigation Counsel for EPIC. “Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act make clear that there is a real threat to privacy that can no longer be ignored. Congressman Markey’s bill will help address this challenge.” she said.
“Drone surveillance poses a real threat to privacy and civil liberties in the United States. Congressman Markey’s bill adds much-needed transparency to the drone authorization process and mandates important restrictions that will help to protect Americans from unwarranted drone use,” Jennifer Lynch of EFF added.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also issued a statement on the bill, saying, “The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) supports Congressman Markey’s efforts to safeguard Fourth Amendment interests in the digital age. This bill leaves the door open for law enforcement use of aerial drones while upholding the right of Americans to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Striking the proper balance between law enforcement interests and privacy interests, this bill is the first step in the right direction towards transparency and accountability in future drone use.”
In a strongly worded letter, Markey wrote to the FAA last year demanding to know what privacy protections the agency was putting in place in anticipation of granting approval for commercial groups to fly drones from 2015 onwards.
In a response, the FAA admitted that surveillance drone operators have zero privacy obligations, prompting Markey and his co-Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) to complain that the federal agency is greasing the skids for authorities to gather private information on regular Americans.
“FAA does not appear to be prioritizing privacy and transparency measures in its plan to integrate nonmilitary drones into U.S. airspace,” Markey said in a follow up statement.
While many bills and measures aimed at regulating drones are advancing at the city and state levels, privacy advocates are yet to see a significant legislative movement on a national scale.
Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.