The United States Department of Justice released a drone policy guideline today, setting expectations for law enforcement agencies’ use of drones within the US. The Department of Justice starts their report by acknowledging the usefulness and utility in using drones for law enforcement, and it’s a trend they predict to only rise in the future.
In response to this new technology, the DoJ had a multi-year study done to come up with a policy that would allow law enforcement to carry out these drone missions that increase public safety, but with respect to the rights of individuals’ privacy.
One key point in their drone policy is that any drone investigative methods must be consistent with the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, meaning law enforcement would need to have a warrant to carry out a search where there is an expectation of privacy. Also, they state a quadcopter can’t be used solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment, such as peaceful protests.
The guidelines also say that information collected from a drone can only be used for the authorized purpose, and any personal information collected can’t be held for longer than 180 days unless deemed necessary. This protects against the police sending a drone out just to see what all they can capture against multiple people; the information collection must be specific and targeted.
Finally, the DoJ states in an effort of transparency, they will publish yearly reports summarizing how law enforcement uses drones and what kind of missions they fly. It will be interesting to see how often drones are used and to what purposes. We should see some of those figures by the end if this year.