Future Tense

Sotomayor Concerned About Drones and Privacy, Says You Should Be Too

Sotomayor in 2011.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Justice Sonia Sotomayor told law students and faculty at Oklahoma City University on Thursday that Americans should be feeling very concerned about the potential for drones to compromise personal privacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, she said she thinks that as drones become more ubiquitous, they will encroach on physical spaces that have traditionally been respected as private. And she emphasized that citizens should channel their concern into more active involvement in privacy debates nationwide.

There are drones flying over the air randomly that are recording everything that’s happening on what we consider our private property. That type of technology has to stimulate us to think about what is it that we cherish in privacy and how far we want to protect it and from whom.


Sotomayor pointed out that while many current drone privacy discussions center on government surveillance, invasion of privacy by any group—including corporations or other private citizens—can be just as problematic, especially since there is technology available that allows drone operators to have not only eyes in the form of video feeds but also ears from advanced audio techniques focused on an area of interest.

She said, “We are in that brave new world, and we are capable of being in that Orwellian world, too.”

Law professor Margot E. Kaminski recently wrote in Future Tense that states should create drone privacy legislation now, rather than waiting for courts to weigh in. It seems that Sotomayor may agree there.