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Ohio City Considering Ordinance to Limit Drones; Could Hinder Federal Surveillance Program

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio (Oct. 24, 2016) – An Ohio town will consider regulations on drones that may include limits on law enforcement surveillance. The legislation would not only establish important privacy protections at the local level, it would also help thwart the federal surveillance state.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, earlier this month, the Broadview Heights City Council’s Rules, Ordinances and Franchises Committee asked the city’s law director to draft a drone ordinance after consulting with the FAA on what it can regulated locally. The paper said the ordinance could include requirements that police obtain a search warrant before deploying a drone for surveillance and a ban outlawing weaponized drones.

If the ordinances does ultimately include warrant requirements and a ban on armed drones, it will help protect privacy in the city and take a small step toward blocking federal spying.

This represents another effort in a growing local movement to address the ever-expanding surveillance state.

Impact on the Federal Surveillance State

Although the proposed ordinance would focus exclusively on local drone use and would not apply directly to federal agencies, it would create an impediment for some federal programs.

Much of the funding for drones at the state and local level comes from the federal government, in and of itself a constitutional violation. In return, federal agencies tap into the information gathered by state and local law enforcement through fusion centers and a federal program known as the Information Sharing Environment.

According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators… have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant.

The federal government encourages and funds a network of drones at the state and local level across the U.S., thereby gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on drone use, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.

Police can equip drones with cameras capable of capturing high resolution photos of individual faces. With the FBI rolling out facial a nationwide recognition program in 2014, and the federal government building biometric databases, the fact that the feds can potentially access stored photographs magnifies the privacy concerns surrounding drones.

In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. This represents a major blow to the surveillance state and a win for privacy.

Passage of a drone ordinance including a warrant requirement would limit information gathered by drones in Broadview Heights. Data that doesn’t exist cannot be dumped into federal databases.