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Texas Declares War On Robots 387

Mr_Blank writes "Organizations like the EFF and ACLU have been raising the alarm over increased government surveillance of U.S. citizens. Legislators haven't been quick to respond to concerns of government spying on citizens. But Texas legislators are apparently quite concerned that private citizens operating hobby drones might spot environmental violations by businesses. Representative Lance Gooden has introduced HB912 which proposes: 'A person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image. ('Image' is defined as including any type of recorded telemetry from sensors that measure sound waves, thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves, odor, or other conditions.)' Can you foresee any unintended consequences if this proposal becomes law?" Another reader notes that New Hampshire has introduced a similar bill: "Neal Kurk, a Republican member of New Hampshire's House of Representatives knows that those drones present a growing privacy concern, and in response has introduced a bill that would ban all aerial photography in the state. That is, unless you're working for the government. The bill, HB 619-FN (PDF), is blessedly short, and I suggest reading the whole thing for yourself." Here's part of the bill: "A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if such person knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state where such image is created by or with the assistance of a satellite, drone, or any device that is not supported by the ground."
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Texas Declares War On Robots

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  • Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If I take a picture in a hot air balloon of a sunset and happen to capture an empty field that I do not own, am I guilty?

    What about drones require special treatment v.s. existing peeping tom laws?

    • If I take a picture in a hot air balloon of a sunset and happen to capture an empty field that I do not own, am I guilty?

      What about drones require special treatment v.s. existing peeping tom laws? []

      If by "empty," you mean "not containing people or 'man made' objects," then you'd be jake. Or form an LLC and employ yourself to watch from your balloon for some regulatory violation of your -- well, your company's -- choice.

      • I should have mentioned that my above comment refers to the New Hampshire case. In the Texas case, the bill says "unmanned vehicle or aircraft". Assuming that that's interpreted as "unmanned vehicle or unmanned aircraft," then riding in the balloon shooting photos vs. operating it remotely would seem to be OK.

        Unless I can't understand Texas legalese, which is entirely possible.

        • by drkim ( 1559875 )

          I can't wait to see the TV weather report in Texas if this passes...

          "Well as y'all know, we lost our weather satellite, so, here goes: it was purty hot today, so I reckon probably purty dang hot tomorrow, too. Ain't no clouds right now, but 'cha never know, do ya.
          Billy-Joe; back to you..."

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Wookact ( 2804191 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:58AM (#43045571)
      No, it is to stop things like this: [] All to protect corporations.
      • Am I the only who reads this text as a double edged sword and that somebody has picked on the wrong edge?

        Namely I read this text (and yes I actually went to the original text of the bill) as protecting people, not just corporations. But hey the definition of people in the context of a corporation is another can of worms. Essentially this would stop paparazzi from taking pictures of you while nude sunbathing in a protected pool area. While I understand the double edged sword part is that it would potentially

    • Even if your hot air balloon was unmanned and fell within the purview of this law, i would suggest sending any environmental violations you find anonymously to the appropriate (preferably federal) agency.

      As someone who builds equipment that is robotic (or at least drone like), I find such laws offensive. First I really have no interest in playing Team Austin Green Police, and second, if I'm using my robots to trespass, I understand being charged with trespassing. And down here it's probably legal to shoot m

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:18AM (#43045111)

    So what, will entire states just be blacked out of satellite view?

    • Re:Google Earth (Score:5, Informative)

      by ElmoGonzo ( 627753 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:42AM (#43045383)
      Knowing how Texas has kowtowed to polluters in the past, the intent of this has to be making evidence inadmissible rather than stopping it from being collected.
      • Re:Lance Gooden (Score:5, Informative)

        by hoboroadie ( 1726896 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @12:31PM (#43045965)

        It's hard to google up very much info on that [expletive omitted]. He is quite proud of his bona fides of past disservice. [] He wants to do for corporate criminals what he's done for wealthy voters, protecting them from the vox populi.

        Lance was also able to help steer a voter ID bill into law... and was proud to see Texas step up to protect the integrity of our elections.

        Yep, they pile it high in Texas.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Not just satellite view per se. Consider that just about every type of weather data gathering device will be blocked as well since most are likely to capture an image of in-property doppler shift of rain drops or a radar map of fog/cloud cover or a temperature map of potentially radiating heat*. Of course, it's entirely absurd that the requirement whether a vehicle is unmanned or not since I'm pretty sure if the whole idea is that the images are a violation in themselves that having a living witness reall

    • I'm interested in how this works with prior case law. For instance, a helicopter scanning neighborhoods doesn't require a warrant since you do not own the airspace above your home, and anything the helicopter can see can be used against you in a court. If this legislation would be passed, I'd think it would also impact the ability for law enforcement to do their jobs (unless they included some weasel clauses to allow for it).
      • Specifically, the Federal Aviation Act provides that: "The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States."[1] The act defines navigable airspace as "airspace above the minimum altitudes of flightincluding airspace needed to ensure the safety in the takeoff and landing of aircraft."[2] Air rights []

        I don't see where Texas has jurisdiction in this matter.

  • This would mean Google wouldn't be able to combine its driverless car experiment with Street View imaging on Texas soil.
  • I can't see this lasting long. Already sent to AOPA.
  • No more shots from a helicopter.

    Also I would guess we are only a few years from replacing camera on boom or rails with a flying digital camera.

  • nor are [they] intended to limit employees of governmental agencies or other entities, public or private, who, in the course and scope of their employment and supported by articulable suspicion, attempt to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of a person during an investigation, surveillance, or monitoring of conduct to obtain evidence of suspected illegal activity.

    "arÂticÂuÂlaÂble, adj. That can be articulated"

    "Definition of articulable: capable of being articulated"

    Aren't you glad these are people writing laws? So as long as the suspicion can be voiced or sign-languaged (or maybe winked with Morse code?), it's good to go.

    • Perhaps the law actually says "reasonable articulable suspicion"? That is an existing standard for searches, like a Terry Stop.
      • by Mitreya ( 579078 )
        Perhaps, but not according to the article. It has a quote and I did not alter anything, except to highlight articulable.
    • In law one cannot just run to a dictionary and pick any meaning. The intent is that hunches, 'gut feeling', etc., are not acceptable, one must describe specifically what raises a suspicion. It's a well-understood concept.
  • As usual... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GWRedDragon ( 1340961 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:25AM (#43045183)
    As usual: one rule for the state, and one rule for the peons. They just forgot to add exemptions for their pals in certain industries.
  • I think that the legislation, as described, is not practical unless we want to ban all robotic photography. To me, that is simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    There are definitely inappropriate uses of robotic photography, but this isn't the solution.

  • by Spectre ( 1685 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:26AM (#43045207)

    There was a fellow who had as his hobbies being a private pilot and amateur photographer. Part of how he funded these hobbies was taking a nice camera with him on flights, photographing farms from the air, then selling the framed prints to the farm's residents. It was a bit of an odd business model, as when he was taking the photos he had not previously contacted the residents and had no idea if they would be willing to pay for the photos ...

    The way some of these bits of legislation are worded, that business model would be illegal. So that is a bit of an unintended consequence.

  • So, it appears that this is outlawing attaching a camera to your kite, to a model rocket, to an arrow... many forms of amateur photography are basically becoming misdemeanor offenses. so if one decides to start their iphone recording and throw it up into the air to see what they can see, or throw their recording ipad like a frisbee in the park, if either captures images of a place or person who didn't give express permission to photograph, you could be charged.

    that's all nutso to me.

  • No film at 11 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shking ( 125052 ) <babulicm&cuug,ab,ca> on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:27AM (#43045229) Homepage
    I guess that's the end of New helicopters. Surveyors and cartographers rely on aerial photography Way to piss off the construction industry AND the press at the same time
  • by dav1dc ( 2662425 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:27AM (#43045231)

    I suspect that "A person commits an offense..." would read better as "'A person or government commits an offense..."


  • by mk1004 ( 2488060 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:29AM (#43045263)
    What they're really trying to prevent is someone from taking videos of them in their backyards sunbathing in the nude or doing something with the neighbor's daughter.
  • So basically, any organization outside the US (including foreign governments with remote sensing satellites) can now see what it is illegal for US residents to see? Wow.

    And WTF does support by the ground mean? If I take videos/pictures as a pilot or a passenger of an aircraft, does that count? What if I do launch a baloon, but have to manually tell it to take pictures and have the instructions sent wirelessly (which, umm, I do every 1/10 of a second by my ground-based triggering mechanism)?

    • by Nkwe ( 604125 )

      And WTF does support by the ground mean?

      The atmosphere is supported by the ground. Flying things are supported by the atmosphere. So what is the problem?

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:33AM (#43045309)

    > and in response has introduced a bill that would ban all aerial photography in the state.

    So land surveyors and photogrammetrists are the enemy now?


  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:36AM (#43045329) Homepage

    I think it might be easier so that we can properly make all of these class distinctions clear.

    So Assault weapons, for example, should only be available to government and government contractors who may or may not be working for the government at any given moment. Aerial drones? Same story.

    We have to make these class distinctions clear or else many people will unwittingly make the mistake of thinking we have a government of the people, by the people and/or for the people. This is simply not the case and we should all be 100% clear on that point.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:36AM (#43045335)

    Apparently odor sensors have been banned in the entire beltway area because of their ability to detect and identify the sources of bullsh*t.

    • I think that the banning of odor sensors in the beltway is more for safety reasons and probably a good idea. If not they may overload and either catch fire or explode injuring many in the general population.
  • by bogidu ( 300637 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:37AM (#43045347)

    I didn't know it was a government drone, I thought it was just some lawbreaker's. . . . . that's why I shot it down.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:38AM (#43045351) Homepage

    I notice the NH wording has no mention of consent. So not only can I not take a picture of your dwelling, you can't either, nor can you ask me to. (hell, if you ask me, and I do it, thats conspiracy!)

    We had an issue here in MA a while back where a private BDSM party got raided by police, for this very sort of issue.... paddles and whips were called "insturments of abuse", because there is no provision in the law for consent.

  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:38AM (#43045353)

    I had Texas pegged as building the biggest, meanest, most picture-takingest robots that you ever damn saw, son.

  • DIYdrones (Score:4, Funny)

    by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:38AM (#43045355) Homepage
    It almost seems like these legislators have spent a bit too much time over on the DIYDrones site and got a bit scared of what is available at the consumer level.
  • An outright ban would probably result in the death of a search & rescue subject. Adding a proviso that exempts volunteer search & rescue organizations is required here and it specifically needs to address training activities that normally do not involve law enforcement.

  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:42AM (#43045389)

    I'll make it a habit to jump around, jump around, jump up jump up and get down when I'm taking pictures in NH, to make sure my feet aren't on the ground for any of them.

    Live free or die, my ass.

  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:42AM (#43045393)

    Obligatory XKCD.... wait, no, Happiness and Cyanide. []

  • So, taking pictures of the EXTERIOR of the dwelling from a drone is acceptable. Taking pictures of the INTERIOR is acceptable and lawful under the NH bill.

    These laws are just plain dumb. We should be dealing with the trespass/stalking/harassment activities underlying this, not the act of photographing.

  • If a person flies a model airplane with a camera in the airspace over THEIR OWN property and takes pictures of THEIR OWN home that includes no images of anyone else's property or possessions, that would be illegal according to my reading of the New Hampshire bill and the law it's modifying. [There's no clause in that bill indicating that it's not a crime if the owner of the property gives permission. The law it's modifying specifically defines and refers to private locations, but the bill doesn't use that s

  • Wait until someone captures a crime that authorities *want* to prosecute and the evidence get tossed because of this bill.

    They'll get my Estes Camroc when they pry my cold dead fingers from the launch button...

  • I'm less worried about private citizens taking photos of private property than I am about Government taking photos of private property, all other things being equal. The fact that government is scared of the citizenry and is passing laws against them is very troubling to me. We should be scared of this type of legislation as it does not bode well for us commoners.

  • At least at first glance. Since the law explicitly specifies a "person", I am sure the Federal government, and Texas state government would be inclined to argue that the law doesn't apply to them...
  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:53AM (#43045497)

    To paraphrase:

    "We are worried that drones might catch us breaking the law. That is just unconstitutional, we have a right to break the law and not get caught."

  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:54AM (#43045501) Homepage Journal

    These are examples of laws used selectively on occassion to harass people who encounter an officer on a bad day. The local RC club isn't likely to run into problems but a group of kids using an AR.Drone to record their skateboarding might get fined and lose the device.

    It seems to be the way laws are written anymore. Everyone is a criminal in the eyes of the law, so be quiet, sit down and don't draw attention to yourself. If you speak out they'll find a way to come after you.

  • by JustAnotherIdiot ( 1980292 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:55AM (#43045531)

    But Texas legislators are apparently quite concerned that private citizens operating hobby drones might spot environmental violations by businesses.

    Only in this backwards ass state is finding people breaking the law considered a bad thing.

  • This only applies to residences, so the factory would still have been OK to photograph. Even residences, w/o identifiable people, are OK.

    In addition. the proviso other entities, public or private, who, in the course and scope of their employment may conduct surveillance would let a broad range of activities to pass muster under the law. An environmental group could have people conduct surveillance if they feel a law is being broken, for example.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @12:00PM (#43045595)

    The founders of the US didn't want direct democracy because they were (rightly) afraid of rule by the uneducated mob.

    Unfortunately, the uneducated mob elects uneducated representatives, or worse, people who should know better, but turn off their "that's fucking stupid" filter because "I owe this guy a favor."

    I don't know what to replace what we've got, but clearly representative democracy has failed in many ways.


    • The founders of the US didn't want direct democracy because they were (rightly) afraid of rule by the uneducated mob.

      And this is why, in spite of the many brilliant and benevolent things they wrote into the constitution, they were still part of the problem. They focused on ways to keep the plebes down instead of ways to lift them up. I note that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness failed to make the cut.

  • by DavidHumus ( 725117 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @12:03PM (#43045635)

    Not to go all Godwin but this reminds me of something I noticed recently at a show of photos by Roman Vishniac: apparently one of the laws the Nazis passed in 1933 was to prohibit Jews from taking pictures in public. (Vishniac apparently snuck around this by having his daughter pose next to things he wanted to photograph.) Just a reminder of the sort of people who push for this kind of law....

  • by h8sg8s ( 559966 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @12:16PM (#43045813)

    Joe Biden says just shoot them out of the sky with a shotgun.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday March 01, 2013 @12:33PM (#43045997) Homepage Journal

    These laws will do the exact opposite then what people seem to want.
    The government agency's and police officer will be exempt. You want them to behave, then let everyone have cameras. This applies to cell phones, drones, dash cams etc...

    If you produce frequency that can be detected by people/devices not on your property, you don't have a right to control that.

  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @12:48PM (#43046155)

    Business related:

    I doubt that the could ban satellite imagery, since that happens completely outside of Texas' jurisdiction, and would have a difficult time enforcing the law when the drone is launched out of state, unless the airspace belongs to the state. But it would discourage such companies from operating in the state of Texas, which reflects lost economic opportunities.

    There may be something to be said for preventing corporate espionage, but there is also something to be said for independent monitoring of state and federal laws. That's true even if the "independent" monitor is a competitor, since the only effective way to operate in a regime of relaxed regulation enforcement is the break regulations yourself. An example cited is the enforcement of environmental regulations. Relaxed enforcement in this area would impede the growth of green industries, and leave future generations to pay for the environmental repercussions.

    There would also be reduced innovation in other areas. Drones could be useful for a number of purposes on large properties. The ones I can think of is monitoring crops, search and rescue, as well as security (but there are surely others). Accidental spill-over may result in charges being pressed, thus discouraging the development and use of such technologies within the state.


    This would effectively make some hobby or learning projects illegal. Let's face it, creating an unmanned vehicle that can take photographs is pretty exciting to some people. Cut out that option, and you may be discouraging people from pursuing science and technology related careers since they would not develop or maintain the interest.

  • by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @12:55PM (#43046251) Journal

    in Texas it is a crime to report a crime!
    God those people are so f*ed up it is just amazing.

  • by TimTucker ( 982832 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:34PM (#43046799) Homepage

    creating an image ... with the assistance of a satellite

    Wouldn't geo-tagging photos be considered having "assistance" from a satellite?

  • Here we have a Perfect Storm wherein the Republicans combine their total allegiance to corporations (and the resultant $$) with their incredible stupidity. That coined saying, "any sufficiently massive stupidity is indistinguishable from evil," comes into play too.

    Meanwhile, where's all those TeaBagger Repubs? They should be screaming "no Big Government interference with our personal R/C video tools!"

  • Big shocker (Score:4, Informative)

    by PrimeNumber ( 136578 ) <PrimeNumber@exc i t> on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:50PM (#43046971) Homepage

    Lance Gooden [] is a Republican. This is the party that is always talking about Big Government, "freedom from government", etc. Freedom from government unless your rich friends get caught polluting a river by a drone that is.

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