U.S. Congress must make a federal law prohibiting invasion of people’s privacy with drones
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Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the popularity of drones, with more than 770,000 drone owners registered to fly in U.S. airspace, as of May 2017 according to the FAA. Though drones have aided people, including helping police forces across the United States enforce the law, there have been concerns around privacy and drones. For example, in March 2017, a woman in Miami was breastfeeding her baby in her home when she noticed a drone hovering right outside of her window. She said, “If I can’t nurse in my house, where can I freely nurse my child?”
This raises the question: Is the airspace above your property (whether rented or owned) considered part of your property? There are no real clear laws on airspace, but there have been many cases and lawsuits in recent years regarding this subject.
In one recent incident in March 2017 a man shot down his neighbor’s drone in Louisville, saying it was spying on his 16-year-old daughter while she was sunbathing. He was arrested, but a judge ruled that Mr. Merideth had the right to shoot down the drone and dismissed the case, according to a source at WAVE, an affiliate of NBC. The judge, Rebecca Ward, said that Mr. Merideth had the right to shoot down the drone because, “. . . it’s credible testimony that his drone was hovering from anywhere, for two or three times over these people’s property, that it was an invasion of their privacy and that they had the right to shoot this drone.”
Though there are not many clear laws regarding flying your drone near private property and/or taking photo and video, there have been many cases and lawsuits involving drones and privacy. In 2015, a police officer in Georgia lost his job after being charged with eavesdropping after flying a drone over his neighbor’s property. In addition, a man was arrested in Ulster, NY, in 2014 for flying a drone too close to a hospital window. Georgia and New York are both states that do not have any state laws regarding drone privacy.
While there are no federal drone privacy laws, some states such as Arkansas, California, Florida, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Texas have passed their own laws about voyeurism with drones and the taking of photos and videos with a drone. We believe a federal law for all states must be passed.
Though we know that drones can take beautiful photos and can aid police, we are very concerned about the violations of privacy that have occurred because of drones. We believe that though most drone users are essentially decent people and use their drones for entertainment purposes, there needs to be a federal law passed regarding privacy.
We need your support to urge Congress to consider making and passing a bill regarding drones and privacy. We would want this bill to clearly say that the space up to 200 feet above your property is indeed part of your property, whether rented or owned. There are currently no laws regarding airspace, and a law like this would help settle many controversies and help with this issue of privacy. We think it should be 200 feet because that is a reasonable enough distance from a person’s property and also most drones can fly up to 500 feet, so that way private drones can still fly over property while not invading privacy. Over 200 feet, drone users should be permitted to take video. However, as the camera quality on drones increases, this may need to change. We would also want this bill to include something like California Code, Civil Code - CIV § 1708.8 which prohibits the use of drones to capture video and/or a sound recording of another person without their consent. Many states such as Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Texas have passed similar laws; every other state does not have laws regarding privacy and drones. Because of these reasons, we believe a federal bill would be the answer to this issue of drones and privacy.
We hope with your help we can get Congress to consider making and passing a federal bill regarding drone privacy.
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