Do You Ever Feel Like Somebody's Watching You?

Will the Eyes of Texas Drones be Upon You? A Closer Look at the Texas Privacy Act

Have you ever wondered what Rockwell was singing about in the song, “Somebody is Watching Me?”. I think Mr. Gordy had insight to the governments future spying issues. OK, maybe he had no clue. But I think he was on to something when he said, ”I always feel like somebody’s watching me, and I have no privacy.” At any rate, we think you should take a look at our blog and see who will be watching YOU.

Rise of the Drones

When most people think of "drones" today, they probably don't think of mindless robots programmed to do whatever they're told. Instead, the title has become synonymous with the unmanned and weaponized aircrafts that roam the skies over the mountains of Afghanistan. It's no surprise then that so many people have such negative feelings about drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Those same people might be surprised to know that Congress directed the Federal Aviation Administration to write rules to allow drones to access domestic airspace by 2015. Congress seems to be crafting a future where drones can be made available for private commercial use. There's some speculation that drones can be capable of doing tasks ranging from delivering mail to monitoring city traffic conditions. But there's also some obvious concerns that drones could be used to invade people's privacy. Many states, including Texas, have already begun to act on these concerns by writing laws to regulate how drones can be used.

The Texas Privacy Act (HB 912) was signed into law this year. The law aims to restrict how drones can be used as surveillance by private and public entities in Texas. Under the law, it is illegal to use a drone/UAV to:

  • Capture an image (including infrared or ultraviolet images) of a person or private real property
  • With the intent to conduct surveillance on the person or real property captured in the image

The Texas Privacy Act allows plaintiffs to pursue civil monetary remedies against potential violators, including

  • A fine of $5,000 for all images captured in a single violation, and
  • $10,000 if the image captured in violation of the Act is disclosed, distributed, or displayed

Finally, the Texas Privacy Act has a long list of exceptions for circumstances in which drones are used by universities for research, law enforcement, or the US border patrol. Here are some of the notable exceptions where drones are permitted under the Act:

  • Drones can be used to capture images of persons or real property anywhere within 25 miles of the US-Mexico border.
  • Law enforcement officers can use drones when they are in pursuit of a suspect, as long as they have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe an offense has been committed. This exception does not include misdemeanors or offenses punishable by fine only.
  • Drones can be used by professors, employees, or students associated with institutions of higher education for the purposes of conducting scholarly research.
  • Electric and gas utility companies can use drones to inspect facilities and to determine when repairs are needed.

As drones become more and more popular and people are able to access them for a variety of uses, it will become more important to make sure that everyone's rights are protected in their use. Do you have a drone? Wondering if you are protected? Attorney Guillermo Lara has a strong scientific and data background, ensuring that he can technically analyze your case to ensure the best possible outcome. Get started with a free intial case consultation.

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