Domestic Drone Use Sparks Lawsuit

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Tuesday filed papers seeking to force the FAA to release information about use of drone aircraft and the identity of entities allowed to fly them inside the U.S. above an altitude of 400 feet. That specific kind of operation requires authorization from the FAA and as yet, the FAA has not made public any information regarding who has been granted the authorizations and how those recipients are using approved aircraft. Last April, the EFF sought records through the Freedom of Information Act and says it has not seen a response from either the FAA or the larger DOT. The use of drones in surveillance of U.S. citizens is not theoretical, according to at least one report.

The EFF's lawsuit specifically cites law enforcement's use of those drones in "at least two dozen surveillance flights since June," as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The suit has prompted public support from Jane Harman, former chair of the House Homeland Security Intelligence subcommittee. "There is no question that this could become something that people will regret," Harman told theHill.com. The EFF believes the public "needs to know more about how and why" drones are employed in surveillance of U.S. citizens. Drone use has been on the rise militarily, but also domestically as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has started to employ use of the vehicles and currently operates eight Predator Bs. It is the reported loaning out of those drones for local police activities that has drawn the most public scrutiny.