On Wednesday, March 20th, at 10:30am Eastern time, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hosts “The Future of Drones in America: Law Enforcement and Privacy Considerations” hearing. Webcast link, witness list, and prepared written statements by witnesses are available here. (If you miss the live webcast the hearing should be available in the archives.)
This hearing may be managed or influenced by the "Privacy, Technology and the Law" subcommittee. Then again, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, may want to drive the hearing. He has been vocal about drone privacy issues since at least January, 2013. And Chairman Leahy spoke out on Vermont Public Radio on 3/20/13 on the need to have many hearings and how new technology outstrips society. Leahy appears to be concerned about the increasing use of drones by law enforcement and the impact on privacy. Leahy has a strong record on technology policy issues. Leahy should bring thoughtful leadership to the drone issue. He is likely to open it up to the positive aspects, especially with regard to ingenuity and the breadth of uses of drones.
General media coverage of this hearing focuses on how drones impair or may otherwise impact privacy, mostly in terms of the use of drones by the government. Not much coverage in this legislative context of the innovations resulting from drones and the benefits from individuals creating and deploying drones. To date it appears that most of the lobbying on drones is coming from the larger manufacturers. This may be skewing the perception of drones and will color the privacy debate.
For example, POLITICO Morning Tech (3/19/13) frames the hearing as a part of the debate raised to a national level by the filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and points out that drone privacy legislation has been introduced by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). H.R. 637 enjoys several cosponsors: Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Billy Long (R-MO), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Ted Yoho (R-FL). Statements by Poeand Lofgren describe H.R.637.
According to Thomas, H.R.637 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. No public information is available re hearings. Thomas does provide links to additional statements and other background information. There is no companion bill in the Senate indicated by Thomas at this time.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), introduced his own drone privacy bill on 3/19/13. It is an update of his bill from 2012.