The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday June 26th

New NC law regulates drone surveillance in hunting

N.C. House Bill 1099, parts of which were implemented Monday, prohibits animal rights activists from using drones to survey hunters, among other regulations.

PETA began the production and distribution of the PETA Air Angel last year specifically to monitor hunters in the hopes of discovering and stopping illegal activities.

“I think (that) reflects that a lot of different types of advocacy and journalism groups are interested in using the technology and seeing what it can do,” said Will Potter, an independent journalist.

Potter started a Kickstarter campaign earlier in the year to fund a documentary that would use drones to film agricultural groups and investigate their environmental practices. This form of advocacy has come under fire from multiple state governments that have passed laws prohibiting the filming of agricultural sites.

The practice is known as “ag-gag,” and North Carolina has become a participant.

“I think that some of the drone regulations we see right now in North Carolina and other states as well are not in fact about drones or the technology at all,” Potter said. “They’re about attempts to shroud this industry in secrecy and hide factory farms.”

The N.C. American Civil Liberties Union has voiced concerns not only about the law’s limitation of individuals’ ability to use drones for art or journalism, but also about the vague language in the law regarding law enforcement’s ability to use drone surveillance.

Mike Meno, spokesman for the N.C. ACLU, said there are many privacy rights concerns in the language of the law.

“(The law allows) surveillance of any public or private event or place where the general public has been invited, which begs the question that if I have my neighborhood over for a barbecue, does that mean that law enforcement have the right to conduct surveillance on my barbecue?” he said.

Liz Woolery, a Ph.D. student in the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said North Carolina and several other states have created extremely vague laws that curtail First Amendment rights but simultaneously ignore image gathering under other circumstances, like Google Street View.

“When a law has that kind of vague term trying to combat some big, broad idea like surveillance, but doesn’t define it or get into the nitty-gritty, that’s very worrisome,” Woolery said.

Potter also noted the dichotomy that the government sets up about different groups’ abilities to use drones.

“What we’re hearing is that people in power and government law enforcement should have unobstructed right to surveil and monitor us in all manners,” he said. “But when citizens try to use similar technology to hold industry and corporations accountable for their actions, that’s being made illegal.”


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