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AMAZON PRIME AIR

a speech in Congress by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), on

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Full Text Below, adapted from the Congressional Record.

Mr. Speaker, the innovativeness of American enterprise flies off the radar.

According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the company is fixing to deliver packages to its customers via drones. It is called ``Amazon Prime Air.''

That's right. In just a few years, Bezos said people will be able to order something online and have it in their hands within 30 minutes by the use of drones. It sounds like something out of the Jetsons, doesn't it? Gone will be the days of the neighborhood mail carriers. Soon there will be a drone to replace them. According to Amazon, these drones can deliver packages up to 5 pounds, which makes up 90 percent of their deliveries.

Mr. Speaker, thousands of Americans use Amazon every year, especially around the holiday season. Amazon, unlike the glitch-ridden government Web sites, can efficiently use online Internet services that get a timely product to market. Think of how many drones could soon be flying around the sky. Here a drone, there a drone, everywhere a drone in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, Amazon is just one of many companies that will be looking to take advantage of this cost-effective drone technology in the coming years. And good for Amazon. I congratulate them.

The FAA is charged with the responsibility of coming up with ways to regulate drones for safety reasons, but who is watching out for the privacy of American citizens? Congress has the responsibility and the duty to set clear regulation for all drones in domestic use. Absent legislation to prevent surveillance of Americans, companies could use drones not only for delivery, but other ways that, in my opinion, violate the constitutional right of privacy.

The issue of concern, Mr. Speaker, is surveillance, not the delivery of packages. That includes surveillance of someone's backyard, snooping around with a drone, checking out a person's patio to see if that individual needs new patio furniture from the company.

Photographing swing sets, pools, or the people that are in the pools, or even looking into windows, all of that could be done with the use of drones under corporate America or by individuals. This would all be possible. So Congress must ensure that the expanded use of drones in the coming years does not come at the expense of the individual right to privacy.

After all, this is a right guaranteed to all Americans under the Fourth Amendment. That's why I have, along with Representative Zoe Lofgren (Calif), introduced the bipartisan Preserving American Privacy Act. Our bill would deal with several things, and, once again, Mr. Speaker, we're talking about regulating surveillance and setting guidelines for the expectation of privacy for citizens.

It would, first of all, deal with the government. It would prohibit the government from using drones for targeted surveillance of an individual or their property without a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment applies to the use of drones when the government is involved. It would also prohibit individuals or companies from using drones to take photographs or audio recordings of private individuals without their consent.

This is private surveillance, or spying, or snooping, whatever you want to call it. It would restrict private individuals and law enforcement agencies from arming drones, which can be done.

As we enter this uncharted world of drone technology, Congress must be proactive and establish boundaries for drone use that safeguard the constitutional rights of Americans and not leave this up to the FAA.

Individuals are somewhat concerned that these new eyes in the skies may threaten their privacy, so Congress can and should immediately balance this high-tech development with our constitutional right of privacy.

Boundaries are needed before drones flood the skies of America. Just because Big Brother or individuals or companies can look into someone's backyard or through a window of a house doesn't mean it should be allowed. As the innovativeness of American enterprise flies off the radar, we should be mindful that technology may change, but the Constitution does not.

And that's just the way it is.