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  • The Domestic use of Drones and the Fourth Amendment

    The tension between national security and personal privacy interests is not new, especially in light of the explosion of surveillance technology in recent decades. Yet, the question still remains unanswered: what is the proper balance between the necessity of the government to keep people safe, and the need to preserve an individual’s fundamental right to privacy? In this comment, I will argue that the domestic use of UAVs needs to be integrated into our national security system if the government is to keep pace with the intensifying range of formidable civil and criminal issues afflicting the nation. In order to integrate these aircraft systems into our national airspace while simultaneously safeguarding the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment, I endorse the view that the states must serve as the “beacon[s] of protection” for their citizens by shaping their individual constitutions to address current privacy concerns. I support this proposition by endorsing the view that three distinct benefits arise when the states are forced to be their own gatekeepers: first, diverging state interpretations of current privacy laws are likely to influence reform at the national level; second, inconsistent interpretations among the states will underscore the instability of the current law and help remove the arbitrariness and vagueness of the law as it currently stands; and third, state constitutions provide a greater source of protection to larger numbers of people. Ultimately, this comment supports the unprecedented advantages that are anticipated to accompany the assimilation of UAVs into the national airspace system, and it concludes that any privacy concerns related to their use are best left to be dealt with by the individual states. Thus, Part I will discuss the historical background of UAVs, Part II will discuss the current use of drones both abroad and at home, Part III will address current Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, and Part IV will discuss the need for states to serve as independent guideposts for their constituents.

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