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New Drone Policy shared by Department of Justice

The Department of Justice released new drone policy guidelines for how UAVs can be used domestically by Federal Law Enforcement

These new guidelines, which can be downloaded from the Department of Justice website, should provide clarity to agencies that have not yet embraced the use of UAVs.  As we reported a while ago, the Department of Justice audit of drone usage showed a lack of use, combined with wasted money and equipment.  Drone policy guidelines, making it clear on when drones be used, and in what manner, should enable agencies to use these tools more easily and for citizens to know they are being used in a manner that protects the privacy of the majority of citizens.

Here are a few highlights from these drone policy guidelines:

  • A recognition of constitutional rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment: “As with all investigative methods, UAS must be operated consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures and generally requires law enforcement to seek a warrant in circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • Data collection by UAVs is not something special, it must follow existing guidelines, especially: “As noted above, the Department shall only collect, use and disseminate information obtained from UAS for an authorized purpose.  The Department shall not retain information collected using UAS that may contain personally identifiable information for more than 180 days unless retention of the information is determined to be necessary for an authorized purpose or is maintained in a system of records covered by the Privacy Act.”
  • Transparency to the American people is of utmost importance, noting “Department will update its website to reflect its current policy on UAS on an ongoing basis, and will provide a general summary of UAS operations conducted by the Department during the previous year, including a brief description oftypes or categories ofmissions flown and the number oftimes the Department provided assistance to other federal, state, local and tribal agencies or entities.

These drone policy guidelines represent progress by the Department of Justice.  We applaud these steps and encourage them to continue to look for legal methods of using these tools as part of their efforts.

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