Mayor Schaunaman is not going to be happy: some Republican legislators are actually trying to crack down on drone snooping!
Representative David Johnson (R-33/Rapid City) offers House Bill 1065, a measure to revise the law on drone surveillance. HB 1065 revises our statute on trespassing to eavesdrop by changing the section banning eavesdropping by drone from this:
Intentionally uses a drone to photograph, record, or otherwise observe another person in a private place where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy; [SDCL 22-21-1]
Use a drone for aerial surveillance, observation, technological imaging, photography, videography or any other type of sensory recording to gather, collect, disseminate, or retain data of persons, homes, businesses, or properties, where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the written consent from the person, the property owner, or the manager; [2020 HB 1065, Section 1, as introduced 2020.01.17].
Johnson’s language clarifies “otherwise observe” to make clear that eavesdropping by drone applies to collecting any kind of sensor data—visual, audio, infrared, gravitic, tachyonic…. It expands eavesdropping to apply not just to snooping on people but gathering any information about homes, businesses, or properties…
…which makes me think right away we’ve found one avenue by which Governor Noem may try to crack down on Keystone XL protestors, opponents of CAFOs, or others who may try to gather evidence of violations of environmental law done by the beneficiaries of Noem’s business-über-alles approach to government. Pipeline protestors may want to use drones to monitor pipeline construction and mancamp sewage-handling practices to identify violations of their permit conditions. CAFO watchdogs may want to use drones to survey manure dumping and sewage lagoon maintenance. HB 1065 criminalizes such aerial surveillance against property, even if no people are present.
Hmm… maybe Mayor Schuanaman won’t mind that much.
HB 1065 also eliminates exemptions to the eavesdrop-by-trespass statute. Right now, it’s not eavesdrop by drone trespass if the snooper is “operating a drone for commercial or agricultural purposes pursuant to or in compliance with federal aviation administration regulations.” HB 1065 strikes that exemption and leaves it so that the only folks not subject to a Class 1 misdemeanor for unauthorized drone overflies are cops, folks droning under cops’ orders, and emergency management workers managing emergencies.
Wait—an exemption overriding federal regulations? Mayor Schaunaman won’t like that!
HB 1065 doesn’t have a committee hearing yet. It will be interesting to hear Representative Johnson testify to the motivation for his anti-drone-snooping bill.
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By the way, now that he doesn’t have to put up with Lynne DiSanto’s foolishness anymore, Johnson is running for District 33 Senate. He’s only in his second term in the House, but District 33’s regressive Senator Phil Jensen is in his fourth term and has to step away from Senate after this year, leaving an opening for possibly more sensible Senatorializing from District 33 (which is kind of like saying removing Donald Trump opens the door for more sensible Presidenting).