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What are your thoughts about "Air Sentinel", a new drone tracking app, and similar apps?

If I had ten quid for every time I've heard "if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to worry about" I'd have been able to get my mini 3 pro for nothing. This logic falls flat on its arse as soon as you clue on that rules change regularly and what was legal yesterday can very easily become illegal tomorrow. Given the fact that in present times, prosecution for "historic" offences is commonplace, that means all your historic data can be used to criminalise you in retrospect.
The ability to have "historic" offenses, or ex post facto laws, is specific to the country you are in. Since the UK has left the EU, it's no longer bound by the general prohibition against ex post facto laws. The UK Criminal Justice Act of 2003 essentially removed any block to ex post facto laws.

As mentioned in another post, in the context of RID, this is all pretty moot. The laws restricting drone usage have been in place for a while.
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FWIW, the prohibition on enacting ex post facto laws by the US Constitution is been determined by the courts (see Calder v. Bull) to only apply to criminal law, not civil. And there are exceptions to ex post facto criminal laws, mainly with sexual predators.

And it's wrong, no matter how much we feel the act is vile.

Worse than the severity of any single act is the cosmic evil of punishing someone after the fact for something that was entirely legal, that they had a right to do, that later we decide should not be allowed.

The individual had no ability to choose to obey the future law, not knowing it would exist.

Criminal or civil, doesn't matter. And separate from the ethical question of punishing people who were behaving lawfully, there's the opportunity for enormous government corruption and abuse of such an option to punish political enemies and the disfavored.
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And it's wrong, no matter how much we feel the act is vile.


There was a meme circulating regarding how Iceland arrested the bankers during the 2008 recession. The meme proclaimed how Iceland was ā€œsuperiorā€ for taking care of the bad bankers.


Those bankers broke no laws. In order to arrest and imprison them, Iceland had to create ex post facto laws, which they did, and then went after the bankers who had no chance in court as the laws were tailored to specifically put them in prison. ā€œCourtā€ at that point was only a cursory show-piece for optics.

Ex post facto laws are totalitarian/fascist, and have no place in any reasonable society.

The founders thought this so fundamental itā€™s in the main document of the US constitution, before any of the amendments.

(Since this is an international site, to those unfamiliar, the 1st-10th amendments, and later amendments, are not the whole US constitution, they are "bonus add-ons" to the much longer original document, which few seem to bother to readā€¦. the constitution is the amendments AND the entire rest of the owl...)
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While the "no expectation of privacy in public" principle is generally true in the U.S., this principle is not absolute and there are some exceptions. One famous case was Katz v. United States, where the defendant's conversations were recorded from outside a "public" phone booth. In this case, Justice Harlan created the "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Test" in his concurring opinion where he defined a two-part test:

Yes, however Katz supra is not really instructive here. In Katz, Federal agents surreptitiously attached a listening device to the outside of the phone booth. By attaching to the outside of the phone booth they were effectively bugging the phone booth. It didn't matter if it was on the outside, as a sensitive device connected to any such structure is going to be able to hear the sound transmitted through such a structure (does anyone remember those old phone booths? They were basically just an aluminum frame with panes of glass.)

A slightly more relevant case is Kyllo vs. U.S. 2001, where agents used an infrared camera to see inside Mr. Kyllo's home. SCOTUS ruled unconstitutional absent a warrant.

Nevertheless, neither of these examples apply to drone photography when the following:
  1. The drone is using standard visible light photography, and
  2. Is being flown in the public airspaceĀ¹, and
  3. When identifiable humans are present, any captured images are used only for news, documentary, educational, or personal use, i.e. not commercial film/television/advertising.
    • Note that if an identifiable person is present, this crosses the line into "right of publicity" law.
    • Right of publicity laws effectively prevent the commercial use of such footage without a specific contract with the individual(s).
    • Right of publicity laws vary state to state.
  • OK: flying in public airspaceĀ¹, above roof tops, shooting backyards with visible light.
  • NOT OKAY: intentionally descendingĀ² down into the backyard, especially below the fence line.
  • VERY NOT OKAY (JAILBAIT): flying into an open door/window into the house.

Ā¹: For simplicity, the definition of public airspace is the air so designated by the FAA, and otherwise above the height of improvements to a given plot of land (i.e. top-most roofline of a home).

Ā²: There's an important distinction between intentionally descending into a backyard, and losing control or power and crashing into a backyard. If crashing, there's a bunch of other considerations not related to this thread.
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(Since this is an international site, to those unfamiliar, the 1st-10th amendments, and later amendments, are not the US constitution, they are bonus add-ons to the much longer main document, which few seem to bother to readā€¦.)
Strongly disagree. They are every bit a part of the USC. That's why they're called amendments, and the USC has a formal process for changing it (through amendment).
Strongly disagree. They are every bit a part of the USC. That's why they're called amendments, and the USC has a formal process for changing it (through amendment).

I think you missed my point. Of course they're part of the constitution, and I certainly said as much in that post, though in rereading I recognize that it was a little bit unclear what I meant, for which I apologize and I am going to quickly edit that right now.

What I Meant
Let me phrase it another way. I've found, tragically, that many people including Americans often think of the amendments, particularly 1 through 10, as "the constitution" but the constitution, in total, is a much longer and in-depth document that defines the foundational structure of the United States government.

And it's useful to recognize the difference in the history behind the second Constitution 1787, and the 1791 Bill of Rights example. The first, the 1781 Articles of Confederacy, created a fairly weak federal government that was inadequately enabled, leading to the creation of the new Constitution, signed 1787, ratified 1788, and in force 1789.

The initial 1787 Constitution itself had a number of protections, and delegations of rights and liberties, but also he created a federal government that was much stronger, and it was not without opposition.

In order to ratify it, many states demanded that the Bill of Rights be added as amendments. The anti-federalists of the time "feared the authority of a single national government, upper-class dominance, inadequate separation of powers, and loss of immediate control over local affairs." Sound familiar? Officially there were 70 delegates to the constitutional convention, several did not show up, and only 38 people signed.

While the Constitution created a stronger central federal government versus the failed Articles of Confederation, it was divisive, and two opposing political parties emerged almost immediately. The divisiveness has carried on for some 240 years. The first, second, third, fourth, and fifth amendments in particular, hinted at the fear people had of a strong central government.

This little tidbit of history I think is important, and it's one of the reasons why I like to point out the difference.
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