Mainers shouldn’t have to fear that the government could use unmanned drones to spy on our homes and our backyards. Unfortunately, cheap technology and a change in the federal rules make the specter of backyard surveillance a real and terrifying possibility.
Next week, the Maine Legislature's Judiciary Committee will conduct a public hearing on LD 236 (SP 72), "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use." LD 236 would place state limits on domestic drone use, including requiring a warrant or court order for law enforcement purposes.
Web genius and pioneer Aaron Swartz never should have faced prosecution.
His "crime" was violating the terms of service for an online academic library called JSTOR by systematically downloading content from the site. Aaron did not profit, distribute or even read the articles he downloaded. He even returned what he took. JSTOR would eventually make millions of these articles free to the public.
In our era of expanded tracking technologies that rapidly outpace our laws, there's a lot of work to be done to get back in line with the Fourth Amendment if we want to provide reasonable protections against warrantless surveillance.
The mere fact that the police are capable of tracking someone doesn’t mean they’re entitled to do so without first getting a warrant, any more than the mere fact that it’s easy to break down someone’s front door or open their postal mail gives the police the right to take these steps without a warrant.
This past week was a great example of how our work in Maine can impact broader reform efforts across the country.
Our advocacy around solitary reform helped spur significant reductions in the rates of solitary confinement at the Maine State Prison. Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte even testified at an April hearing in Illinois about the potential closing of the controversial Tamms Correctional Center, which holds prisoners in long-term solitary confinement, often for a decade or more.