The Texas take on drones
Keep them out of the hands of whistleblowers: the imperative is “Protect the Corporations” (so that their wrongdoing may go unpunished). Natasha Lennard at Salon:
With the swift proliferation of surveillance drones into the hands of domestic government bodies, law enforcement, and private corporations, efforts to regulate drone use and protect U.S. citizens’ privacy have spread across the country. A bill with bipartisan support was introduced to the House last month that would require law enforcement to get a search warrant or some other kind of judicial approval for surveillance before using drones to investigate criminal wrongdoing. A Virginia city has also become the first in the U.S. to pass an (albeit symbolic) resolution against the government use of domestic drones.
For the most part, privacy advocates have expressed concerns about police and private corporations using drone technology to spy on citizens without warrants. In Texas, however, the issue of drones and privacy has taken a specific shape, protecting business interests against citizen surveillance. A new bill introduced by Texas state Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican, would make it a misdemeanor to take photos with an unmanned aircraft. As PopSci explained:
It’s unique because it criminalizes taking any data — photos, sound, temperature, even odor — of private property using an unmanned aircraft without the permission of the property owner. Law enforcement officers could only use drones while executing a search warrant or if they had probable cause to believe someone is committing a felony, and firefighters can only use drones for fighting fire or to rescue a person whose life is “in imminent danger.” Texas’ border-patrolling Predator drones are exempt within 25 miles of the Mexican border.
The legislation was prompted by an incident last year when a hobbyist operating a small drone over public land in Dallas accidentally photographed a meat-packing plant illegally dumping pig blood into the Trinity river, resulting in an EPA indictment. If passed, the bill would introduce the sort of regulation that privacy advocates have been pushing for around the country — aiming to contain warrentless government surveillance — while outlawing hobbyists and whistleblowers who might use drones. The bill reflects a strain of corporate libertarianism that runs through contemporary U.S. politics. . .