Privacy SOS

Senators introduce legislation to require a warrant for aerial surveillance

Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada) have introduced legislation that would require law enforcement officials, including the FBI and Marshal's service, to obtain a probable cause warrant before conducting aerial surveillance using either a drone or a plane.

The Protecting Individuals From Mass Aerial Surveillance Act would bar the government from introducing "unlawfully obtained" evidence in court and from "identifying persons who show up incidentally in surveillance, unless there is probable cause to believe such persons have committed a crime," a press release on Senator Wyden's website states. It would also prohibit government agencies from soliciting aerial surveillance from private companies if the agencies would themselves be unable to lawfully conduct it.

The bill, which has support from Oregon's largest drone lobby, would only apply to federal law enforcement, not state and local cops. According to Senator Wyden, there are other carve outs, too:

The bill includes exceptions for border patrol (within 25 miles of land border), testing operations, public land surveillance, including surveying for weather-related damage, research, scoping for environmental dangers and illegal vegetation, as well for as wildlife management.

Read more about the federal aerial surveillance proposal, and learn about efforts to regulate drone surveillance in Massachusetts.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.