WASHINGTON, June 12 -
Last week, just after suppertime in a neighborhood in McLean, Virginia, a 14-year-old girl – we’ll call her Sarah – was jumping on a neighbor’s backyard trampoline. Suddenly, Sarah heard a noise and looked up, only to see a low-flying object hovering overhead. It was a small, remote-controlled flying object. It was a drone. It had a blinking red light coming from it.
The object hovered over her for about 10 minutes. She began to get real nervous and uneasy. So she jumped off the trampoline and ran home to tell her parents, but the flying object continued to follow her. She told her mother. So her mother walked outside into the street and observed the flying object. Suddenly, the object moved away into another neighbor’s backyard, where three other teenage girls were sitting in the pool. The small drone hovered over them momentarily, then it moved away.
The police were called. They arrived at the scene and told the citizens: “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” Mr. Speaker, this sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie – someone up to no good spying on teenage girls with a drone.
Mr. Speaker, drones are easy to find and easy to obtain. With a simple Google search, you will find out that one can buy a drone on eBay or go down the street and buy one at Radio Shack.
According to the FAA, the group that monitors issues permits for drones, by 2030, there will be 30,000 drones cruising American skies – looking, observing, filming, spying, and hovering over America. We will not know who they are, what they’re up to, what they’re looking at, or what their purpose is, whether it’s permitted or really not permitted, whether it’s lawful or unlawful. And we won’t know who’s flying those drones.
There are legitimate uses for government and private citizens for the use of drones, but a nosey neighbor or snooping government should not be able to spy on citizens without legal guidelines.
As technology changes, Congress has the responsibility to be proactive and protect the Fourth Amendment right of all citizens – “The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Thus sayeth the Constitution.
Nowadays especially, Americans are concerned about their Fourth Amendment rights being taken away. Well, no kidding. The right of a reasonable expectation of privacy is a constitutional right. The general rule is snooping, spying, surveillance, or eavesdropping goes against the basic rights outlined in the Constitution. That is why I have introduced the Preserving American Privacy Act, along with Representative Zoe Lofgren from California.
Congress must be proactive in protecting the rights of civilians from private use and government use of drones. This legislation balances individual constitutional rights with legitimate government activity and the private use of drones. The bill sets forth clear guidelines, protects individual privacy, and informs peace officers so they will know what they can and cannot do under the law.
There will be limits on government use of drones so that the surveillance of individuals or their property is only permitted or conducted when there is a warrant based on probable cause, as the Constitution requires.
Of course there will be no exceptions. They are called exigent circumstances, which is already in our law, and these will apply, as it does now, regarding search and seizure. Those exceptions include fire and rescue, monitoring droughts and floods, assisting in another emergency cases, or to chase a fleeing criminal.
The bill also allows for the use of drones for border security. The bill also sets forth guidelines for the private use of drones. Basically, private citizens cannot use drones to spy on others without consent of the landowner or that person.
Congress has the obligation to set forth guidelines, to secure the right of privacy, and protect citizens from unlawful drone surveillance while maintaining lawful private and government use.
Drone laws are need because a Peeping Tom should not be able to spy on young girls who are in the privacy of their backyards just because the Peeping Tom has the ability to do so.
And that’s just the way it is.