US Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor highlights privacy concerns about drones

September 13, 2014 |

US Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor has highlighted the importance or privacy, most notably in United States v Jones.  Her concurring opinion went further than the majority in highlighting impact on privacy of technology.  Her opinion clearly highlights a willingness to develop privacy law to deal with these developments.  In that context her reported comments about the privacy implications of drones in Sotomayor: Americans Should be Alarmed by Spread of Drones  (Washington Post) and Sotomayor Concerned About Drones and Privacy, Says You Should Be Too (Slate) is  consistent with her previously stated views.  It is also stating the obvious.  The Federal legislatures in both the United States and Australia are fully aware of the privacy issues of the extraordinary growth of drones and their ever developing capability.  But neither are doing much of anything to meet these technological developments with any coherent legal framework within which drones can operate while giving a modicum of rights to citizens who may be affected by their use.

The Washington Post articles provides:

Americans should be more concerned about their privacy being invaded by the spread of drones, Justice Sonia Sotomayor told an Oklahoma City audience on Thursday.

Speaking before a group of faculty members and students at Oklahoma City University’s law school on Sept. 11, Justice Sotomayor said “frightening” changes in surveillance technology should encourage citizens to take a more active role in the privacy debate. She said she’s particularly troubled by the potential for commercial and government drones to compromise personal privacy.

Said Justice Sotomayor:

There are drones flying over the air randomly that are recording everything that’s happening on what we consider our private property. That type of technology has to stimulate us to think about what is it that we cherish in privacy and how far we want to protect it and from whom. Because people think that it should be protected just against government intrusion, but I don’t like the fact that someone I don’t know…can pick up, if they’re a private citizen, one of these drones and fly it over my property.

Technological advances make it possible for devices to “listen to your conversations from miles away and through your walls,” Justice Sotomayor said. “We are in that brave new world, and we are capable of being in that Orwellian world, too.”

Justice Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice, also talked about diversity on the high court bench, saying there was still room for improvement in areas beyond race, ethnicity and gender.

“We don’t have one criminal defense lawyer on our court,” she said, saying the high court also lacked justices with big law experience or who come from solo practices. “There’s something not good about that.”

“The president should be paying attention to that broader diversity question,” she said, according to a report in the Oklahoman.

Justice Sotomayor, whose visit to the school coincided with 9/11 ceremonies, also spoke about lessons that Americans could draw from the 2001 terror attacks.

“I learned what being a united America was like,” the native New Yorker said, according to the Oklahoman. “I watched people see past their differences and find their commonality.”

The Slate article provides:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor told law students and faculty at Oklahoma City University on Thursday that Americans should be feeling very concerned about the potential for drones to compromise personal privacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, she said she thinks that as drones become more ubiquitous, they will encroach on physical spaces that have traditionally been respected as private. And she emphasized that citizens should channel their concern into more active involvement in privacy debates nationwide.

 
 

There are drones flying over the air randomly that are recording everything that’s happening on what we consider our private property. That type of technology has to stimulate us to think about what is it that we cherish in privacy and how far we want to protect it and from whom.

Sotomayor pointed out that while many current drone privacy discussions center on government surveillance, invasion of privacy by any group—including corporations or other private citizens—can be just as problematic, especially since there is technology available that allows drone operators to have not only eyes in the form of video feeds but also ears from advanced audio techniques focused on an area of interest.

She said, “We are in that brave new world, and we are capable of being in that Orwellian world, too.”

 

One Response to “US Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor highlights privacy concerns about drones”

  1. US Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor highlights privacy concerns about drones | Australian Law Blogs

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