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Legal Limits Of Surveillance Drones

file photo (credit: Getty Images/AFP)

file photo (credit: Getty Images/AFP)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Pardon me, but your surveillance drone is showing.

In the 1984 song, ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’, Michael Jackson sang: “I always feel like somebody’s watching me and I have no privacy.” He couldn’t have foreseen how true that would be thirty years in the future with the advent of drones. Not the weaponized ones that are the subject of movie thrillers, but surveillance drones, the aerial robots that collect information about citizens.

Technology has now created a surveillance drone that eliminates the need to enter a home to find evidence of criminal behavior, but can, instead, view such activity by hovering near a home’s window.

So, does law enforcement need a search warrant to gather info through those drones? Under the law, it depends on whether the person had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area to be searched.

So it seems that if the police want to fly a drone to hover outside a suspect’s bedroom window or even around the property in order to conduct surveillance, they would likely need a warrant.

Still, with the law – and the drones – up in the air, a legal battle over the use of drones will be a thriller to watch.

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