As technology and demand have made unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – commonly called drones – cheaper and more accessible, concerns about their use by law enforcement have grown. In an attempt to balance public safety with privacy rights, the California legislature recently passed AB 1327, making it the most recent state to tackle the issue.

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Aerial and camera surveillance of public areas is nothing new, but as lawmakers learned this July during a roundtable discussion, advances in technology are raising new policy questions about everything from privacy and private property to the practices of law enforcement.

Take, for example, the increased capabilities of a drone.

It now can be equipped with high-resolution cameras that observe objects, in detail, as small as 6 inches from as far as 17,000 feet away and can track 65 different targets over a 65-square-mile zone.

“There are a lot of good things that drones can be used for,” said Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, noting how effective and inexpensive they have become. “But there need to be some types of guidelines in place for their use.”

States have a central role to play in setting those guidelines, added Scott, who helped facilitate the discussion among state and provincial lawmakers at the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting.

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For farmers and ranchers, the promise of “big data” to vastly improve operations is hard to ignore. Take, for example, the idea of “prescriptive production.” By merging a decade’s worth of fertilizer, climate and yield data with advanced soil maps and existing conditions, a producer can make more-informed management decisions — down to the fertilizer used and seeds planted on each acre of land. Evidence shows that this approach can increase yields by between 10 and 25 percent.
“Big data” is the term applied to the sorting and processing of enormous quantities of data. And the ability to crunch massive amounts of data may be as important to the future of food production as the development of the tractor was for 20th-century agriculture.
But it is also hard to ignore the myriad policy and privacy issues arising from increased use of “big data.”

On May 22, 2014,  with  Governor Bobby Jindal’s signature, Louisiana  joined the ranks of states such as Wisconsin and Tennessee in barring employers and educational institutions from requesting or requiring personal social media account access with the “Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act”( HB 340).

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Amazon wants to use a drone to deliver your new jacket, and a beer company thinks unmanned aircraft systems are perfect for deliveries to remote Minnesota lakes. But at the same time, hunters and anglers in downstate Illinois are concerned that animal-rights activists will use drones with cameras to interfere with their sport.
Drones are still most known for their use by the U.S. military, but they are beginning to get more attention from state legislators and others who set domestic policy.
The recent activity in Illinois is a case in point.

The Supreme Court decided today that it will hear two cases addressing whether police can search cell phones or smartphones without a warrant subsequent to arrest. Case law on what police can and cannot do when they make an arrest is pretty settled - they can search the person being arrested and what's within that person's reach, particularly to find weapons or evidence that could be destroyed. However, the lower courts are divided on whether or not cellphones or smartphones can be searched without a warrant in the same way. 

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments endorses the Aerospace States Association’s policy paper “UAS Privacy Concerns” addressing unmanned aircraft systems privacy concerns; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments supports the Federal Aviation Administration-monitored use of UAS as emerging technologies with a potential economic benefit for states.

Stateline Midwest ~ 2013 Annual Meeting Edition

Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of states to gather DNA samples from arrestees, lawmakers in two Midwestern states advanced measures to expand the scope of their collection programs.
The Internet has transformed everything we do—from buying groceries to boarding an airplane—and has emerged as the engine of a new global economy. Its growth is fueled by a set of emerging technologies and business models that are challenging our ability to control how and with whom our personal information is shared, as well as changing our understanding of privacy. These developments in technology and enterprise have created new privacy risks for individuals and corporations. Attorneys general are seeking the best ways to manage those risks by investigating, educating and advocating for meaningful online protections and controls that protect our privacy while also protecting the growth of this new economy. The attorneys general also are tracking implementation of the national $25 billion mortgage
servicing settlement they reached last year to bring relief to homeowners.
 

The rapid expansion of aerial surveillance technology with unmanned vehicles like drones was an issue of significant concern and interest across states. The signaling by the Federal Aviation Administration to open up more air space for commercial use by drones, and their application for law enforcement purposes precipitated the passage of several pieces of legislation across the country
adding new parameters on the use of this transformational technology.

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