On Sunday, an Oregon law went into effect that bans the use of weaponized drones and takes the first step toward limiting data collected by drone surveillance under the current law. The legislation not only establishes important privacy protections at the state level, it will also help thwart the federal surveillance state.
Rep. John Huffman and Rep. Gene Whisnant sponsored House Bill 4066 (HB4066). The new law makes it a Class A misdemeanor to “knowingly or recklessly operates an unmanned aircraft system that is capable of firing a bullet or projectile or otherwise operates an unmanned aircraft system in a manner that causes the system to function as a dangerous weapon as defined in ORS 161.015.”
The new law also requires any government agency operating a drone to establish policies and procedure for use, storage. accessing, sharing and retention of data collected. While the statute does not include specific requirements for handling drone data, it takes a first step toward controlling information collected by unmanned aircraft and sets the stage to limit access to such data in the future.
HB4066 builds on existing laws regulating drone use in Oregon. In 2013, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill into law requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant for drone use in all but a few cases. With this expansion of the law, Oregon can take the next step and ensure an data collected by drones is strictly controlled.
Impact on the Federal Surveillance State
Although Oregon laws apply primarily to state and local drone use, they throw a high hurdle in front of some federal programs.
Much of the funding for drones at the state and local level comes from the federal government, in and of itself a constitutional violation. In return, federal agencies tap into the information gathered by state and local law enforcement through fusion centers and a federal program known as the information sharing environment.
According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators… have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant.
The federal government encourages and funds a network of drones at the state and local level across the U.S., thereby gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on drone use, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.
In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. This represents a major blow to the surveillance state and a win for privacy.