#ncga: Of drones and men …

droneI’m the last guy to throw in with the black helicopters and tin-foil helmet crowd.  But I found some language in the new state rules for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, aka ‘drones’) a wee bit troubling:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT TO CLARIFY THAT AGENTS OR AGENCIES OF THE STATE OR A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THE STATE SHALL HAVE AUTHORITY TO PROCURE AND OPERATE UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS UPON APPROVAL OF THE STATE CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER AND TO MODIFY THE  REGULATION OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS TO CONFORM TO FAA GUIDELINES.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts: SECTION 1. Section 7.16(e) of S.L. 2013-360, as amended by Section 7.11(a) of S.L. 2014-100, reads as rewritten:  “SECTION 7.16.(e) Until December 31, 2015,no State or local governmental entity or  officer may procure or operate an unmanned aircraft system or disclose personal information 13 about any person acquired through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system unless the 14 State CIO approves an exception specifically granting disclosure, use, or purchase. Any 15 exceptions to the prohibition in this subsection shall be reported immediatelythe State CIO shall have the authority to approve or disapprove (i) the procurement or operation of an unmanned aircraft system by agents or agencies of the State or a political subdivision of the State and (ii) the disclosure of personal information about any person acquired through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system by agents or agencies of the State or a political subdivision of the State. When making a decision under this subsection, the State CIO may consult with the Division of Aviation of the Department of Transportation. The State CIO shall immediately report to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology and the Fiscal Research Division. […]

So, the state’s Chief Information Officer — the unelected IT guy or gal — is going to have the final say on what, if any, citizens’ “personal information” obtained by drone surveillance will be released to organs of the government?  What constitutes “personal information”?   What standards will be applied to determine whether said surveillance and collection of “personal information” is within the confines of the law? How will the CIO be held accountable on this?  Will he or she be an officer of the court, or a law enforcement officer of some kind?

This current legislation on the House calendar is called a “clarification,” but leaves a lot open to interpretation.  And THAT — leaving the government a lot of wiggle room — makes me uncomfortable.

1 thought on “#ncga: Of drones and men …

  1. “The state’s Chief Information Officer” is currently a gentleman named Chris Estes. His previous job, before Pat McCrory put him in charge of the state’s drone program, was as an executive at Booz Allen Hamilton, the ginormous NSA contractor. What could go wrong?

    When this bill came up, both at the Local Govt. Committee, and the full House floor, there was an effort to change “the State CIO may consult with the Division of Aviation” to “shall consult”, so that there would be just a little more oversight in these decisions. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Torbett, refused to allow it both times.

    And then in the Judiciary IV Committee, the question was put – will the SCIO release to the public, information on who the waivers to operate drones (for govt. purposes) are being issued to? Rep. Torbett said he couldn’t speak for the SCIO, but that he couldn’t imagine why not… And then he immediately did imagine one reason why not: if the SCIO happens to be dealing with issues of “national security”.

    I know I feel more comfortable.

    The state drone program is directly related to what’s happening nationally: the FAA and the Department of Defense are preparing to drop the restrictions on military surveillance drones from operating in the National Airspace.

    Here comes the tin-foil: read all about it at

    http://ReapersComeHome.blogspot.com

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