“The prospect of drone use inside the United States raises far-reaching issues concerning the extent of government surveillance authority, the value of privacy in the digital age, and the role of Congress in reconciling these issues,” says a new report on the subject from the Congressional Research Service.
“This report assesses the use of drones under the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness. A reviewing court’s determination of the reasonableness of drone surveillance would likely be informed by location of the search, the sophistication of the technology used, and society’s conception of privacy in an age of rapid technological advancement.”
“While individuals can expect substantial protections against warrantless government intrusions into their homes, the Fourth Amendment offers less robust restrictions upon government surveillance occurring in public places and perhaps even less in areas immediately outside the home, such as in driveways or backyards. Concomitantly, as technology advances, the contours of what is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment may adjust as people’s expectations of privacy evolve.”
The new report reviews the relevant Fourth Amendment landscape, the current status of drone technology and applications, and pending legislation on the subject. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations: Fourth Amendment Implications and Legislative Responses, September 6, 2012.
Other noteworthy new CRS reports that Congress has declined to make publicly available include the following.
The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty-Eight Years, September 5, 2012
NFIB v. Sebelius: Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate, September 3, 2012
Search and Seizure Cases in the October 2012 Term of the Supreme Court, September 4, 2012