See DARPA's 1.8 gigapixel drone camera is a high-res Fourth Amendment lawsuit waiting to happen by Joshua Kopstein. A lawsuit may happen, but will it win?
Can an analogy be drawn between Kyllo’s thermal imaging technology and a 1.8 gigapixel camera? (1,800 megapixel; an iPhone 5 has an 8 megapixel camera.) Tough question. A camera like that only shows the curtilage, and that's visible from any low-flying airplane. Kyllo showed something inside the house.
In the three fly-over cases in SCOTUS, Ciraolo and Riley involved “naked eye” observations at 1,000' from an airplane and 400' from a helicopter. Neither bothered the Court. Dow Chemical, on the other hand, involved “a standard floor-mounted, precision aerial mapping camera, to take photographs of the facility from altitudes of 12,000, 3,000, and 1,200 feet.”
Has technology overridden the reasonable expectation of privacy with a 1.8 gp camera, or does it fall within Dow Chemical's “precision aerial mapping camera” yet even beyond exotic thermal imaging of the home? But, remember, it's the curtilage being shown, not the interior of the house. How long has satellite imaging been around? How long has Google Maps shown our backyard to the world? See Kyllo, at 33-34:
The present case involves officers on a public street engaged in more than naked-eye surveillance of a home. We have previously reserved judgment as to how much technological enhancement of ordinary perception from such a vantage point, if any, is too much. While we upheld enhanced aerial photography of an industrial complex in Dow Chemical, we noted that we found "it important that this is not an area immediately adjacent to a private home, where privacy expectations are most heightened," 476 U. S., at 237, n. 4 (emphasis in original).
It would be foolish to contend that the degree of privacy secured to citizens by the Fourth Amendment has been entirely unaffected by the advance of technology. For example, as the cases discussed above make clear, the technology enabling human flight has exposed to public view (and hence, we have said, to official observation) uncovered portions of the house and its curtilage that once were private. See Ciraolo, supra, at 215. The question we confront today is what limits there are upon this power of technology to shrink the realm of guaranteed privacy.
Kyllo was 12 years ago. Since activities inside of a house aren't shown, I don't think it's unconstitutional under the three cases already decided.
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