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Domestic use of military drones brings up privacy questions: Part 2

The previous post began to discuss the increasing use of military drones in domestic law enforcement operations. While the practice is still rare, a recent article published by The Washington Post discusses how a privacy debate is likely to rise up around the new technology. Citizens are protected by the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure and new surveillance technology tends to prompt fresh debates around what is "unreasonable."

According to the Post, in 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that a police department did not violate the Fourth Amendment's rule against unlawful search and seizure when they flew a plane over a man's backyard to confirm a suspected marijuana grow operation. The justices said that it was not unreasonable for the pilot to see the marijuana cultivation with his naked eye from the public space of the air.

In 2001, however, the Supreme Court ruled that a police department had violated a man's Fourth Amendment rights by using thermal-imaging cameras to detect the heat of marijuana cultivation present inside the suspect's house.

It is not a stretch to think that the Supreme Court will eventually be discussing what constitutes reasonable use of drones by domestic law enforcement. As the use of drones increases, it is likely that a debate about privacy rights and the Fourth Amendment will also develop around it.


Domestic use of aerial drones by law enforcement likely to prompt privacy debate (The Washington Post)

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