House Criminalizes Unauthorized Drone Surveillance

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas House has approved a bill criminalizing the use of drones and other unmanned aircraft to indiscriminately photograph or conduct surveillance on private property.

Approved by a voice vote Thursday night, the bill by Republican Rep. Lance Gooden of Terrell has dozens of co-sponsors.

It would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 in fines to conduct with malice any surveillance without a property owner's knowledge. It also criminalizes possessing or distributing images taken from the sky under such circumstances.

Exempted are law enforcement officials tracking suspected criminals.

The bill must clear a final, procedural hurdle in the House before heading to the Senate.

Supporters say it will modernize privacy rights amid technology improvements. Opponents argue it violates freedom of the press and may be unconstitutional.

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