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Udall Backs Bill To Protect Americans From Drone Surveillance

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As the domestic use of drones become more prevalent, Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall is introducing legislation to ensure that the privacy rights of Americans are protected.

The Safeguarding Privacy and Fostering Aerospace Innovation Act [.pdf] will make it illegal for an individual or business to conduct surveillance of another person using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) technology. There are some exceptions, including if the person has consented or if the person is in a public place.

"There is currently no federal legislation to address the growing privacy threat of drone surveillance," says Amie Stepanovich, director of the Domestic Surveillance Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in a statement.

The bill also requires that unmanned aerial systems to be clearly marked with the name, address and telephone number of the owner. Senator Udall says he’s optimistic the measure will be passed by Congress.

“If you think about privacy being really at the heart of our freedoms in this country, in the end privacy is bipartisan. There isn’t a difference between the parties on the need to protect privacy,” Udall said.

Udall signed on with Governor John Hickenlooper and six of the other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation urging the  Federal Aviation Administration to choose Colorado to be one of six planned UAS testing sites. A decision by the FAA is expected by the end of the year. 

The FAA estimates there could be as many as 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles in U.S. airspace within the next decade.

President Obama noted the importance of using drones to protect national security during a speech Thursday. Obama says he’s signed new policy guidelines to oversee when the U.S. can use drone strikes against suspected terrorists.

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