EPIC v. DHS (Drone Policies)

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Background

On February 15, 2015, President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum to federal agencies concerning the domestic use of drones. Emphasizing the "privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns" raised by the technology, the President ordered agencies to ensure that any use of drones by the federal government in U.S. airspace comply with "the Constitution, Federal law, and other applicable regulations and policies."

Among other measures, President Obama instructed each agency using drones in U.S. airspace to:

  • Create and periodically re-examine "policies and procedures relating to the collection, use, retention, and dissemination of information obtained by [drones]";
  • Institute policies and procedures "that provide meaningful oversight of individuals" who have access to personally identifiable information collected by drones;
  • Establish procedures "to receive, investigate, and address, as appropriate, privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties complaints" arising from the use of drones; and
  • Keep the public informed of how and where the agency uses drones, including through a required annual summary "of the agency's [drone] operations during the previous fiscal year, to include a brief description of types or categories of missions flown, and the number of times the agency provided assistance to other agencies, or to State, local, tribal, or territorial governments." (Fiscal Year 2015 ended 345 days ago on September 30, 2015.)

In addition, President Obama ordered each agency to publish within one year of the memorandum "information on how to access [the agency’s] publicly available policies and procedures implementing this section."

EPIC's Interest

EPIC is concerned about the federal government’s use of drones to conduct surveillance within the United States. Drones have been used by DHS for well over ten years. The public has a right to know the scope of DHS’s drone usage as well as the policies for the collection, use, dissemination, and retention of the information obtained by drones. EPIC has a significant interest in obtaining DHS documents required by President Obama February 15, 2015 Presidential Memorandum that describe the procedures to address the privacy and civil liberties issues drone surveillance raises.

Legal Documents

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 18-545)

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