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Drones over America and the invasion of our privacy.

Your wife and your 17-year-old daughter are sunbathing in your backyard by the pool. You just bought a new privacy fence to keep your neighbors from looking in on them. As you begin to throw some food on the grill and you happen to look up and see something hovering over your pool and it is not moving. You walk towards it and whatever it is flies away. You think nothing of it other than your neighbor’s kids playing with a new toy. One day you are at work and your coworker walks in with his tablet with a concerned look on his face and shows you an image of your child and your wife on a website in your back yard that same day. What do you say?

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Domestic drones should not be allowed because they violate personal privacy, people’s fourth amendment rights, and they are not safe to use. … Many people are not prepared to stop a brutal invasion of their privacy. Drones can easily demolish a law-abiding citizen’s personal privacy and there should be federal laws to prevent this.


There are two forms of common law invasion of privacy: Intrusion upon seclusion and publication of private facts. 

1. Intrusion upon seclusion

A leading treatise defines intrusion upon seclusion as a tort in which one “intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.” Intrusion upon seclusion must be intentional; there is no such tort as a negligent intrusion upon seclusion.

Intrusion on seclusion means intrusion into a private space. Observation of a person in public generally does not amount to liability for intrusion upon seclusion. For example, using a drone to hover outside someone’s home while using the drone’s mounted camera to peer into a window without that person’s permission could subject the drone operator to liability for common-law intrusion upon seclusion.



2. Publication of private facts

The second form of common-law invasion of privacy is the publication of private facts. The elements of this tort are the publication of private facts that are offensive and are of no public concern. The tort addresses the public dissemination of private information rather than the mere gathering of the information itself. Accordingly, a person who gathers the private information, but then does not publicly disseminate it, is not liable for this tort. Disseminating the private facts presupposed by the actor



NC Law Section 7.16(e) of S.L. 2013-360: Gives the state’s Chief Information Officer authority to approve (or disapprove) the operation of drones by state agencies, requires a test for the operation of drones, establishes permitting process for the commercial use of drones, conforms to federal FAA guidelines.


Just like cell phones and the Internet — which began as military communication tools — unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, are no longer limited to military or government use. In fact, drones equipped with video cameras have quickly become popular with hobbyists and can be found in most toy stores. Commercial interests and research entities have found novel new ways to use these small, pilotless vehicles as well.

In addition to federal drone regulations, states also have passed laws regulating the use of drones by individuals, businesses, law enforcement, and other interests. 


Many states have passed laws directed at drones in light of growing invasion-of-privacy concerns.

States such as Florida, Idaho, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas have passed laws that address the use of drones by private parties. For instance, Florida’s Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act prohibits the use of a drone “to record an image of privately owned real property or of the owner, tenant, occupant, invitee or licensee of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image in violation of such person’s reasonable expectation of privacy without his or her written consent.”

Under the statute, “a person is presumed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy on his or her privately owned real property if he or she is not observable by persons located at ground level in a place where they have a legal right to be, regardless of whether he or she is observable from the air with the use of a drone.” The prevailing plaintiff is entitled to compensatory damages and injunctive relief to prevent future violations against the offender, plus reasonable attorney’s fees. A fee multiplier is not allowed unless the case is tried to a verdict, in which case a multiplier of up to twice the actual value of the time expended may be awarded. Punitive damages may also be awarded subject to other requirements and limitations under the law.

Some states have had stalking statutes in place for years. California, for example, passed a stalking statute a few years ago to deal, in particular, with paparazzi stalking celebrities. Stalking statutes create a private cause of action against anyone who engages in a pattern of conduct with the intent to follow, alarm, place under surveillance or harass the plaintiff, and which causes fear for safety or emotional distress. A drone can follow and hover over someone and cause considerable emotional alarm. Many news stories have reported on these types of incidents. The courts would almost certainly be willing to permit a victim of drone-stalking to pursue a civil action under state civil-stalking statutes.


I want to make it clear that I am not arguing against the use of technology. But like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, a warrant needs to be issued to use drones domestically. The police force should have the power to collect intelligence; however, I believe they must go to a judge and request a warrant to do so. The judicial branch must have some authority over drones, as they do with other law enforcement tools.

My bill will restate the Fourth Amendment and protect American’s privacy by forcing police officials to obtain a warrant before using domestic drones.

There are some exceptions within this bill, such as the patrol of our national borders, when immediate action is needed to prevent “imminent danger to life,” and when we are under a high risk of a terrorist attack. Otherwise, the government must have probable cause that led them to ask for a warrant before the use of drones is permitted.

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