Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Resist the Surveillance Drones, a threat to Freedom of association!

(Maureen Smith, member of Peace & Freedom Part of Santa Cruz, wrote the following)

Drones Are Coming to Someplace Near You

As Californians, we may not have to worry about the the immediate threats to life and limb nor the psychological problems of existing under Obama's drones that those living in the U.S. invaded Middle East experience, but we do need to be prepared for drones coming to California.

Since the passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Public Law 112-95, at least four bills have been introduced in our state legislature; SB 15, AB 1326. AB 1327, and AB 737. The first of these bills to go to a committee hearing is AB1326 which will be heard in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee on April 22nd.

AB 1326 is a simple bill to allow drone manufacturers and their companion contractors to be exempt from taxation in California. The revenues lost to local jurisdictions such as cities and counties will not be reimbursed by the state. Those of us who don't want the drones here in the first place see this bill as adding insult to injury.

A companion bill by the same authors, Gorell and Bradford, AB 1327 which addresses the use of drones by public agencies in California, leaves the specifics of the acquisition of drones to local jurisdictions. The bill allows law enforcement agencies, CAL-Fire and some others to acquire drones for law enforcement. fire-fighting, geological and pollution fighting activities but forbids the retention of images, footage or data obtained with drones for more than 10 days unless needed as evidence of a crime, part of an ongoing investigation of a crime, or for training purposes, or pursuant to a court order.

AB 1327 does prohibit an individual from using a drone to spy on another individual without consent from that person. Furthermore, an individual who is spied on without his/her consent, may seek and obtain an injunction prohibiting the use of images, footage, or data obtained through the surveillance.
The liquidated damages from such surveillance would be set at $5,000 per day of surveillance and more if actual damages are in excess.

AB 737, introduced by Fox with many coauthors, is an emergency measure which requires the Director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development to prepare a proposal to establish a test site in California and would authorize the director to consult with the Governor's Military Council and other specified entities in developing the proposal. The administrator of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act has requested proposals in order to select six sites across the United States for testing domestic drones.

SB 15 is an attempt to regulate the misuse of drones for spying and personal gain such as selling the photos, videos or recordings obtained for profit. The wording does not stay with unmanned ariel vehicles (drones), but includes any trespass on private property to obtain photos, videos etc of a non consenting victim.

This bill also identifies a "person" as including "an individual, business association, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, or other legal entity, and an individual acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of any government or subdivision thereof, whether federal, state, or local, but excludes an individual known by all parties to a confidential communication to be overhearing or recording the communication." We who support Move to Amend are repulsed by language that supports corporate personhood.

SB 15 throws some potential funding to the Arts and Entertainment Fund for grants by the California Arts Council by stating "Fines collected pursuant to this subdivision shall be allocated as followed: (a)
One-half shall be allocated to the prosecuting agency. (b) One-half shall be deposited in the Arts and Entertainment Fund, which is hereby created in the State Treasury."

While this bill seems comprehensive in covering privacy issues, it also seems filled with questionable
language and limits on fines for offenses. It raises the question of whether a wealthy person or other entity would actually be deterred from future offenses by a $5000 fine.

At this time we cannot support any of the bills currently introduced until such time that safety, liability,
and both private and public use of drones are adequately addressed. Therefore, we join with the states of Virginia and Idaho in supporting the a ban on the use of drones.