Tag Archive | Satellites

Protecting Indigenous Peoples’ Privacy from “Eyes in the Sky”

Wayne Madsen, Lead Scientist, Computer Sciences Corporation, 1994

Abstract: This paper investigates the problems associated with remote sensing from space-based platforms as they relate to the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. Many nations and international organizations recognize a right of individual privacy. This paper advances the notion of a right to collective privacy, what can best be described as a “communal right of privacy,” especially as it relates to the rights of indigenous people to be free of wanton exploitation from data on their lands and waters that are collected from orbiting surveillance and sensing platforms. Indigenous peoples argue that since they are the direct descendants of the original peoples who settled their lands before conquest by outsiders, they have an “inalienable” right to their territories and the natural resources contained therein (Nagengast, Stavenhagen, and Kearney, 1992, 31). Clearly, the sparse number of international treaties and other regimes that seek to protect the rights of indigenous people to their lands and resources must be strengthened to address privacy protections against wanton snooping from overhead surveillance satellites.

For full text of this article, which is still very relevant today, click here.


Legislating Privacy After US v Jones

Legislating Privacy after U.S. v. Jones: Can Congress Limit Government Use of New Surveillance Technologies?

by Robert Gellman, JD, Communia Blog, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, January 25, 2012

The Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Jones, a case that addressed the use of global positioning system GPS tracking devices for law enforcement purposes, is hot privacy news. Almost immediately, the decision sparked numerous and sometimes conflicting comments. The issue here is whether the decision will prompt Congress to consider legislation and what that legislation might look like.

The majority opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia used a property-based approach to conclude that attaching a GPS device to a car and using the GPS to monitor the car’s movements on public streets constitutes a search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The narrow basis for the decision turned on the fact that the government physically occupied private property the car for the purpose of obtaining information.

A concurring opinion by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by three of his colleagues reached the same outcome, but Alito wanted to determine whether the car owner’s reasonable expectations of privacy were violated by the long-term monitoring of his car. Essentially, Alito thought that the majority’s property analysis was not scalable to present day surveillance issues and that an expectation of privacy standard would reach the same result without the baggage of the property-based approach.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined the majority opinion, but she also filed a concurring opinion. She observed that physical intrusion is not always necessary for surveillance e.g., by tracking a cell phone and argued that how surveillance is done may affect an expectation of privacy. So in her opinion Sotomayor asked whether people reasonably expect that their movements will be recorded in a manner that allows the government to ascertain their political and religious beliefs, sexual habits, and more. She even questioned the premise that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information voluntarily disclosed to third parties. That was the holding in United States v. Miller, 425 U. S. 435, 443 1976 , a case increasingly criticized by privacy advocates as inconsistent with life today.

For full text of this article, which provides an insightful overview of what crafting and passing updated privacy legislation might entail, visit Legislating Privacy After US v Jones « Communia.

Robert Gellman, JD is a privacy and information policy consultant in Washington, D.C. He served for 17 years on the staff of a subcommittee in the House of Representatives. He can be reached at bob [at] bobgellman. [dot] com or visit his website at http://www.bobgellman.com/. Also check out his article Location Privacy: Is Privacy in Public a Contradiction in Terms?

State of Remote Sensing Law Conference Papers Online

Journal of Space Law Volume 34 (2008) Now Available Online Without Charge

by Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, ResCommunis Blog, National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law, March 11, 2011

The Journal of Space Law Volume 34 (2008) is now available on-line.  The first part of the volume contains the papers from the The 2nd International Conference on the State of Remote Sensing Law: A Comprehensive Look at the State of Remote Sensing Law held at at the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, 16-18 January 2008. The second part of the volume features a special section: The 50th Anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Act.  …

For full text of the article, visit Journal of Space Law Volume 34 (2008) Now Available Online Without Charge « Res Communis.

NASA Authorization Act of 2010

Obama Signs NASA Reauthorization

President Signs the NASA Authorization bill, October 11, 2010. Credit: NASA photo courtesy of Pete Souza

President Obama Signs NASA Authorization Bill

Source: Space News, October 11, 2010. WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama on Oct. 11 signed into law a three-year NASA authorization bill that sets a new course for American human spaceflight. Hours before Obama put his signature on the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (S. 3729) top NASA officials and U.S. lawmakers told reporters they welcomed the bill’s enactment but warned partisan pushback could threaten funding for the $58 billion measure when Congress reconvenes following mid-term elections in November. … For full text of this article, click here.

Winners and losers from NASA Authorization Act

Source: Nature, September 30, 2010.Like any federal agency, NASA is subject to the whims of Congress, which funds its activities. And following the passage of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 on 29 September, the agency’s priorities have been reshaped.  … For full text of this article, click here.

House Gives Final Approval to NASA Authorization Act

Source: Space News, September 30, 2010. NEW YORK and WASHINGTON — The U.S. Congress passed a NASA authorization bill late Sept. 29, paving the way for an extra space shuttle flight next year and a new human spaceflight plan that takes aim at missions to an asteroid and Mars. … For full text of this article, click here.

Reaction to the House Vote

Source: Space Politics, September 30, 2010. The final recorded vote for S.3729 in the House last night is available. … For full text of this article, click here.

NASA Legisltiave Affairs Website


S. 3729 Title VIIEarth Science

SEC. 701. SENSE OF CONGRESS.It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) Earth observations are critical to scientific understanding and monitoring of the Earth system, to protecting human health and property, to growing the economy of the United States, and to strengthening the national security and international posture of the United States. Additionally, recognizing the number of relevant participants and activities involved with Earth observations within the United States Government and internationally, Congress supports the strengthening of collaboration across these areas;

(2) NASA plays a critical role through its ability to provide data on solar output, sea level rise, at mospheric and ocean temperature, ozone depletion, air pollution, and observation of human and environment relationships;

(3) programs should utilize open standards consistent with international data-sharing principles and obtain and convert data from other government agencies, including data from the United States Geological Survey, and data derived from satellites operated by NOAA as well as from international satellites are important to the study of climate science and such cooperative relationships and programs should be maintained;

(4) Earth-observing satellites and sustained monitoring programs will continue to play a vital role in climate science, environmental understanding, mitigation of destructive environmental impacts, and contributing to the general national welfare; and (5) land remote sensing observation plays a critical role in Earth science, and the national space policy supports this role by requiring operational land remote sensing capabilities.


The Director of OSTP shall establish a mechanism to ensure greater coordination of the research, operations, and activities relating to civilian Earth observation of  those Agencies, including NASA, that have active programs that either contribute directly or indirectly to these areas. This mechanism should include the development of a strategic implementation plan that is updated at least every 3 years, and includes a process for external independent advisory input. This plan should include a description of the responsibilities of the various Agency roles in Earth observations, recommended cost-sharing and procurement arrangements between Agencies and other entities, including international arrangements, and a plan for ensuring the provision of sustained, long term space-basedclimate observations. The Director shall provide a report to Congress within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act on the implementation plan for this mechanism.


The Administrator shall coordinate with the Administrator of NOAA and the Director of the United States Geological Survey to establish a formal mechanism that plans, coordinates, and supports the transitioning of NASA research findings, assets, and capabilities to NOAA operations and United States Geological Survey operations. In defining this mechanism, NASA should consider the establishment of a formal or informal Interagency Transition Office. The Administrator of NASA shall provide an implementation plan for this mechanism to Congress within 90 days after the date of enactment of this 23 Act. 68


The Administrator shall undertake to implement, as appropriate, missions identified in the National Research Council’s Earth Science Decadal Survey within the scope of the funds authorized for the Earth Science Mission Directorate.


It is the sense of the Congress that the role of NASA in Earth Science applications shall be expanded with other departments and agencies of the Federal government, State and local governments, tribal governments, academia, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and international partners. NASA’s Earth science data can in creasingly aid efforts to improve the human condition and provide greater security.

See also: http://science.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=2921

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