Domestic Drone Surveillance: The Court's Epistemic Challenge and Wittgenstein's Actional Certainty

Author:Robert Greenleaf Brice - Katrina L. Sifferd
Position:Robert Greenleaf Brice is a lecturer in the Sociology, Anthropology, and Philosophy Department at Northern Kentucky University. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Michigan State University. - Katrina Sifferd is Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Elmhurst College. She holds a J.D. and a PhD in philosophy from King's College London.
Pages:805-831
 
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Domestic Drone Surveillance: The Court’s Epistemic
Challenge and Wittgenstein’s Actional Certainty
Robert Greenleaf Brice and Katrina L. Sifferd
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction .................................................................................. 805
I. The Fourth Amendment: Searches and Privacy ........................... 808
A. Reasonable Searches and Probable Cause ............................. 808
B. Reasonable Expectation of Privacy ....................................... 812
II. The Court’s Epistemic Challenge: Common Sense
Knowledge and Actional Certainty .............................................. 815
A. Common Sense Philosophy ................................................... 815
B. Wittgenstein’s On Certainty .................................................. 817
C. Objections .............................................................................. 821
D. Wittgenstein’s Actional Certainty and Expectations
of Privacy ............................................................................... 822
III. The Fourth Amendment: A Wittgensteinian Approach ............... 824
A. Reasonable Expectation of Privacy and Actional Certainty .. 824
B. The Mosaic Theory of the Fourth Amendment ..................... 827
Conclusion .................................................................................... 830
INTRODUCTION
According to the Washington Post, between 2010 and 2012,
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs”), commonly known as “drones,” were
deployed nearly 700 times by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on
behalf of local and state law enforcement agencies.1 In 2015, the Federal
Copyright 2017, by ROBERT GREENLEAF BRICE AND KATRINA L. SIFFERD.
Robert Greenleaf Brice is a lecturer in the Sociology, Anthropology, and
Philosophy Department at Northern Kentucky University. He holds a PhD in
philosophy from Michigan State University.
 Katrina Sifferd is Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Elmhurst
College. She holds a J.D. and a PhD in philosophy from King’s College London.
1. Craig Whitlock & Craig Timber, Border Patrol Drones Being Borrowed
by Other Agencies More Often Than Previously Known, WASH. POST (Jan. 14,
2014), http://www.governing.com/news/headlines/Police-Agencies-Using-Border-
Patrols-Drones-More-Often-Than-Thought.html [https://perma.cc/KNW8-HEAG].
806 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 77
Aviation Administration (“FAA”) began accepting applications for drone
licenses by law enforcement agencies.2 Given the number of different ways
drones can now aid departments in gathering intelligence, the number of
applications will likely only increase. Drones can be equipped with facial
recognition software,3 heat sensors, and other high-tech features, such as
microphones capable of detecting gunshots and even personal
conversations.4 Some military grade drones are equipped with “Wi-Fi
crackers” and bogus cell phone towers that allow law enforcement to
pinpoint a suspect’s location while simultaneously intercepting text
messages and phone calls.5 Some of these drones can remain airborne for
hours, even days. Tiny drones, also known as “insect drones” or “micro-
drones,” are currently in development and are said to be capable of going
completely undetected.6
Although drones can be used for a wide range of positive and
beneficial objectivesfor example, crop and land surveys, power line and
pipeline inspections, forest fire detection, and search-and-rescue
missions7some agencies have used drones in ways that raise serious
privacy concerns. For example, in 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported
that police in Grand Forks, North Dakota had used a Predator B Drone
2. Ben Wolfgang, FAA Chief Says Dr ones Will F orce Change at Agency,
WASH. TIMES (Aug. 7, 2012), http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/aug/7
/faa-chief-says-drones-will-force-change-at-agency/ [https://perma.cc/WM3B-RP
BK].
3. Amanda Ziadeh, Drones Get Sightline Tracking, Facial Recognition Tech,
GCN (Nov. 7, 2016), https://gcn.com/articles/2016/11/07/drone-partnership.aspx
[https://perma.cc/Q9F5-EEJP].
4. Tina Moore, NYP D Considering Using Drones and Gunshot Detectors to
Fight Cr ime, N.Y. DAILY NEWS (May 20, 2014, 11:45 PM), http://www.nydaily
news.com/new-york/nyc-crime/nypd-drones-fight-crime-article-1.1799980 [https:
//perma.cc/VQ62-AAXS].
5. Andy Greenberg, Flying Drone Can Crack Wi-Fi Networks, Snoop on Cell
Phones, FORBES (July 28, 2011), http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2011
/07/28/flying-drone-can-crack-wifi-networks-snoop-on-cell-phones/#55284a2f66f9
[https://perma.cc/8SGL-QLJ7].
6. Adam Piore, Rise of the Insect Drones, POPULAR SCI. (Jan. 29, 2014),
http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/rise-insect-drones [https://perma.cc/T3CJ-
VTZG]. Insect drones were recently depicted in the 2015 movie, Eye in the Sky. EYE
IN THE SKY (Entertainment One & Raindog Films 2015).
7. Some agencies have used drones for the very purpose of search and rescue.
Dee J. Hall, Fitchburg Ma n Found Alive, WIS. ST. J. (Jul. 19, 2014), http://host.madi
son.com/wsj/news/local/crime_and_courts/fitchburg-man-found-alive-unharmed-af
ter-nearly-three-days-outside/article_f6274133-90b6-5282-98d8-1304bb6d1f8d.html
[https://perma.cc/DU43-KGNE].

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