While it’s not a big deal, it’s nice to see that my paper Drones and Aerial Surveillance: Considerations for Legislators has been receiving quite a bit of attention from different audiences, making it onto multiple SSRN Top Ten lists. Here they are:
Here is the paper abstract:
The looming prospect of expanded use of unmanned aerial vehicles, colloquially known as drones, has raised understandable concerns for lawmakers. Those concerns have led some to call for legislation mandating that nearly all uses of drones be prohibited unless the government has first obtained a warrant. Privacy advocates have mounted a lobbying campaign that has succeeded in convincing thirteen states to enact laws regulating the use of drones by law enforcement, with eleven of those thirteen states requiring a warrant before the government may use a drone. The campaigns mounted by privacy advocates oftentimes make a compelling case about the threat of pervasive surveillance, but the legislation is rarely tailored in such a way to prevent the harm that advocates fear. In fact, in every state where legislation was passed, the new laws are focused on the technology (drones) not the harm (pervasive surveillance). In many cases, this technology-centric approach creates perverse results, allowing the use of extremely sophisticated pervasive surveillance technologies from manned aircraft, while disallowing benign uses of drones for mundane tasks like accident and crime scene documentation, or monitoring of industrial pollution and other environmental harms. Legislators should reject a warrant-based, technology-centric approach as it is unworkable and counterproductive. Instead, legislators should follow a property rights-centric approach, coupled with limits on persistent surveillance, data retention procedures, transparency and accountability measures and a recognition of the possibility that technology may make unmanned aerial surveillance more protective of privacy than manned surveillance.