On June 17, 2015, United States Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Dean Heller (R-NV), introduced a new piece of legislation, entitled Protecting Individuals From Mass Aerial Surveillance Act of 2015. Specifically, the Act would prohibit Federal entities from using Mobile Aerial-View Devices (“MAVD”), which includes manned and unmanned systems, “to surveil property, persons or their effects, or gather evidence or other information pertaining to known or suspected criminal conduct, or conduct that is in violation of a statute or regulation.” Importantly, the Act contains a number of exceptions – a Federal entity may use a MAVD:
Border Patrol: to monitor national borders to prevent or deter illegal entry of persons and illegal substances.
Exigent Circumstances: when “swift action is necessary” to: (1) prevent imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm; (2) to counter an imminent risk of a terrorist attack; (3) to prevent imminent destruction of evidence; and (4) to counter an imminent or actual escape of a criminal or terrorist suspect.
Public Safety and Research: to conduct aerial surveillance of public land, including surveying for weather-related damage, research, environmental dangers and illegal vegetation and wildlife management.
Consent: to acquire information about an individual with that individual’s written consent.
Warrant: to conduct surveillance pursuant to a warrant.
Under the Act, a Federal entity may not solicit or award contracts to state or private entities to conduct surveillance that the Federal entity itself would not be authorized to conduct, and information collected in violation of the Act would be inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.