Congress seeks to regulate drone use, looks for bipartisan ground

by Ben Wolfgang-The Washington Times  |  published on May 18, 2013

Ted Poe
States already have begun to tackle the sticky issue of drones and their effect on personal privacy.

Eventually, courts will step in and have their say on the matter, determining how the unmanned aircraft fit into existing expectation of privacy standards and limits on government surveillance.

But members of Congress from both parties believe it’s important, perhaps vital, for federal lawmakers to also get ahead of the issue before drones become commonplace in American skies.

“Congress, in the area of drones, needs to set the standards rather than let the courts, down the road, set the standards,” said Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican and author of one of several pieces of drone privacy legislation, none of which have been passed. He made the comments at a Friday morning House Judiciary subcommittee crime, terrorism, homeland security investigations hearing on the subject.

Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat, said that drones are such a game-changer on the technological front that the Fourth Amendment — which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures — isn’t enough.

“This is a prime example of technology overtaking established law, and I think we’re going to have to go beyond the Fourth Amendment,” he said. “There are going to have to be a body of statutes that go into some of this in detail.”

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