In recent years, advances in technology have not only enhanced our ability to connect with one another on a professional and social level but also, advances in technology have allowed the government, at all levels, to peep into our lives at every turn.
Today, criminal defendants’ cases can easily rise and fall on the nature of a defendant’s Facebook or Twitter posts.
Reliance on platforms such as I-phones, Google Earth, Bing, MapQuest and numerous other GPS-based programs have provided the government with free access to view, observe and utilize video and still photography capturing our homes, businesses and down to the minute bodily movements. So, why stop there!
The newest, latest and probably greatest threat to our backyard privacy rights is the increasing availability of the Drone, otherwise known as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Drones can be cost effective and utilized for business development, recreational use, and, of course, government regulation.
Most Drone use is currently regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requiring an application and nominal fee for non-governmental use. With respect to governmental use, a “Certificate of Waiver of Authorization” can be secured permitting the government entity to fly a drone for governmental purposes. “In 2014, according to the FAA, over 600 of these waivers were granted compared to just 146 in 2009.” The government uses included law enforcement, search and rescue and disaster relief.
New York State is slowly gliding into Drone airspace with multiple bills being presented to the New York State Legislature for consideration. Likewise, local governments in downstate New York are also considering, and or have already adopted, local legislation regulating the private use of Drones such as the Suffolk County Legislature and the Town of Huntington.
Interestingly enough, there has not been any governmental regulation pertaining to Drone use by the government. Hence, the question becomes, will big brother government engage Drones to secure information about your private property that it cannot secure from a helicopter or a google earth shot? And if so, what are the parameters? If your neighbor alleges that you maintain an illegal apartment, will local government be permitted to engage Drone technology to casually fly over your property on a daily basis to gather information on the comings and goings of the people who live there? This is a fascinating and riveting time for Drone technology and private land use rights. Stay tuned for future updates on the collision that is bound to occur between them!