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Drone Photos Lead to Indictment For Texas Polluters

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the river-of-pig-blood dept.

Earth 177

In January of this year, we posted news of a major pollution site in Texas that was the subject of some anonymous amateur sleuths with drones, who used their UAVs to document the release of a "river of blood" (pig blood, that is) into the Trinity River as it flows through Dallas. Now, garymortimer writes, that documentation has resulted in legal action in the form of an indictment from a Dallas grand jury. "The story went viral and continues to receive hits nearly a year later. I believe this is the first environmental crime to be prosecuted on the basis of UA evidence. Authorities had to act because of the attention the story was receiving."

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177 comments

Would have preferred (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415419)

Would have preferred to see: "Authorities had to act because it was the right thing to do". Not because it has become a public spectacle.

You are so naive (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415577)

Morality only applies to commoners. The first casualty of wealth is the soul.

Authorities largely exist to protect the wealth of the rich. Ostensibly they also protect the safety of the poor, but orders of magnitude more law-enforcement money is spent on protecting the rich from threats to their wealth.

I agree that this is not how the world should be. But this state of things is a natural consequence of human behavior. Our only defense against it is eternal vigilance (and that means you).

Re:You are so naive (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416087)

Morality only applies to commoners. The first casualty of wealth is the soul.

Authorities largely exist to protect the wealth of the rich. Ostensibly they also protect the safety of the poor, but orders of magnitude more law-enforcement money is spent on protecting the rich from threats to their wealth.

I agree that this is not how the world should be. But this state of things is a natural consequence of human behavior. Our only defense against it is eternal vigilance (and that means you).

A rather naive statement aswell. A product of the times I suppose, and appropriate for this time.

The Authority exists to protect the powerful. It could be some madman bent on burinig money and living on bread and water.

It's rather daft when people proclaim that money is power, because it's the opposite that's really true. Money is only power if the people in power allow it to be.

Morality applies to all men, the problem is context. As an extreme example: Your mother's death will save millions of lives, which do you choose? This can be extended into to political choices, simply because a single decisions aren't about black and white. The problem really is the political system we use.

A world that should be would be a Direct Democracy that would give more voting power to people who vote on decisions that improve the society, and penalize the wrong vote (to a degree). This however has so many technical and political problems it's thousands of years off.

Re:You are so naive (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416207)

I'm getting really sick of this tiresome rant popping up on every single Slashdot story. Government is corrupt. Corporations rule the world. We are all slaves. blah blah blah!

Can't you guys give it a rest?

Why do you always post your rants as AC anyway?

And why twist any poorly phrased summary into a soap box?

There is only this one guy, Gary Mortimer, stating that "public pressure forced the government to act". More likely it was the first time someone brought them proof sufficient to obtain a warrant to search over private lands. You clowns would be the first to complain if the government started flying their own drones, or trespassing across private lands to sample the creek.

Take you tinfoil hat off for just a few minutes each day.

Re:You are so naive (4, Interesting)

NewtonsLaw (409638) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416433)

"I'm getting really sick of this tiresome rant popping up on every single Slashdot story. Government is corrupt. Corporations rule the world. We are all slaves. blah blah blah!

Can't you guys give it a rest?

Why do you always post your rants as AC anyway?"

Sadly, while I might once have agreed with everything you said, I fear that times have changed -- or perhaps it's just that the Net has allowed the truth to be revealed in a way that governments can no longer control.

Everywhere you look these days, there are many and varied examples of government being driven, directed and controlled by industries and those with lots (of money) at stake.

Look at Kim Dotcom for instance -- the MPAA/RIAA may have had plenty of legal justification for some of what they did -- but certainly not all of it and not the way it was done. Hell, the FBI/MPAA/RIAA triad even bullied the New Zealand government in engaging in "unlawful acts" to carry out their dirty deeds.

We've seen the problem of politicians protecting the rich at the cost of the poor grow to become a major problem down in this part of the world (NZL) and it's plainly obvious that the situation is far worse elsewhere.

Bureaucrats (ie: central and local government) spend most of their time simply working to cover it's own ass -- in case things go wrong.

Just look at most of the laws and regulations out there. They're not to improve the safety or to benefit the public nearly so much as they are to ensure that when something goes wrong, some bureaucrat somewhere can say "not my fault, we passed a law/regulation against that and the offender(s) broke those laws/regulations".

Look at gun control for instance...

It's illegal to murder someone with a firearm (or anything else for that matter) -- so the problem of firearms is solved! If someone goes postal or kills innocent pupils/teachers in a rampage -- it's not the fault of any bureaucrat - after all, they've made killing illegal so it's not *their* fault that kids can get their hands on assault rifles so easily.

And they're doing it again with terrorism... they're making just about *everything* illegal -- so when a terrorist does attack and innocent folk are killed, they can turn around and say "not our fault, we made everything illegal -- what more could we do?"

As for drones -- well yes, they're almost certainly going to make them illegal (in the hands of private individuals) too. After all, if there's one thing that bureaucrats *don't* like, it's having their actions spied on by those they're allegedly employed to protect.

Sorry but the "perfect" world never existed and never will.

And look... not posting as an AC! :-o

Re:You are so naive (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416827)

Way to Cherry Pick.

Meanwhile:
Madoff is in Jail for life
2 Generals and two different cabinet officials have been forced to resign
Seattle PD is under Justice Department microscope
Book publishers forced to repay customers for price fixing
BP pays huge fine and has Executives indicted
Entire trading firms under indictment

Its a mixed bag. It always is.

Re:You are so naive (4, Insightful)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417141)

Not only that, but saying that the world isn't perfect is not a justification for not trying to make it better. It's also in human nature to try to improve things.

Re:You are so naive (2)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417433)

Madoff is in jail for stealing from other very rich people and corporations.

If he had come up with a ponsi-scheme that only defrauded 'the little people', it would either have not been detected, or he might have had to pay a fine.

Re:You are so naive (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417527)

Madoff ripped off people who were wealthier than he was. That was a major mistake.

BP made such a thorough mess of things nobody could possibly ignore it.

The trading firms made an even bigger mess. If nothing happened to them, there was a real chance that citizens might have taken their own actions. Meanwhile, the biggest and most powerful financial institutions are still getting off scot-free. They had to come up with a scapegoat.

Like most things in the world, it's not a black and white corrupt/not corrupt dichotomy, just a continuum. Many people would like to move closer to the not-corrupt pole.

Re:You are so naive (4, Interesting)

trevelyon (892253) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418033)

I would agree those were cherry picked so how about we look at a few of the major trends:

Trust of politicians and government in general: http://www.people-press.org/2010/04/18/public-trust-in-government-1958-2010/ [people-press.org]

Income disparity (who is getting all the new wealth): http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3629 [cbpp.org]

I don't have a particular link to environmtal damage but if you can't see that in just about every news source (even the terrible US ones) then you are working hard not to see it.

I will say that not everything is gloom and doom butpeople commenting on corruption, corporate greed and increase in power seems to me just being perceptive not overly negative. Most statistics I've seen and real world experience for the average person seem to support this. I would also point out there is strong evidence that government control is increasing and "rule of law" is decreasing. Again I don't have specific metrics for these but I certainly can point to several pieces of legislation as well as personal experience dealing with governmental institutions (border crossings, airports, traffic stops, tax assessment, building departments). Apparently you do not see this trend but the large number of comments about this just might be from people who see these trends or have experienced them first hand.

Finally, the impetus behind pointing this out just might be a desire to fix some of these issues. The first step in fixing a problem is to identify the problem. Refusing to acknowledge real problems does no service to people facing them or to resolving the problem itself. Just a few things you might want to consider. Hope this helps,

Re:Your List (2)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418443)

Way to Cherry Pick.

Reports on Madoff were disregarded by the SEC for nearly a decade, similar to this story.
Do your other examples illustrate my point as well? I frankly don't have time to do the research.
Good Night.

Re:You are so naive (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417009)

Realize that most of them were born in the 80' and 90's, the civil right movement is history to them in the same way WW1 was history to "boomers" like me who grew up in the sixties. However that doesn't mean there aren't any problems today, the political paralysis in the US over climate change is one such example. It's a constant struggle, someone points out something "inconvenient", (wish Al Gore hadn't stolen that word), and those who are inconvenienced start pumping out the most outrageous (and surprisingly effective) propaganda. Actually they hire others to do it, who have no qualms about assassinating the charter of the genuine "Galileo's" for a meager $100k/yr. A sound and broad scientific education seems to be the best defense for the average punter and the only way to obtain that is through humility and self skepticism.

Re:You are so naive (1)

Marxdot (2699183) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417539)

But here you are practicing the exact opposite of humility and skepticism.

Re:You are so naive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417135)

More likely it was the first time someone brought them proof sufficient to obtain a warrant to search over private lands.

What the hell are we paying the police for if we the people must perform the investigations ourselves!

Re:You are so naive (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417179)

Would you want to live in a society where police could go anywhere and do anything just because there might be a crime happening some day in that location?

Would you like to be taxed enough to pay for all the cops that would require?

Will you change your tune the minute they kick down your door?

Re:You are so naive (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417563)

All they had to do here is look at a blood red river. Any one of their neighbors would likely have welcomed police to use their back yard to do the looking from.

If I am doing something that harmful and it is plainly visible from my neighbor's yard, shame on me.

I would love for police to spend more time looking for crimes visible from public spaces and less time kicking doors in.

Re:You are so naive (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417665)

Go look a the aerial photos. Nobody lives near that Creek. It's farm land. No houses.

When was the last time you walked out to some random Creek across farm land with no reason to do so?

Re:You are so naive (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417817)

It's not as deserted as you might think from the photo. Look at the Google map [google.com] .

According to TFA:

Neighbors near the plant on 11th Street had long complained about noxious fumes and other problems from the meat packers. But investigators didn’t get involved until a remote-controlled toy enthusiast happened to affix a video camera to an RC aircraft and videotape gallons of what appeared to be blood gushing down the river.

So there are neighbors, and they did want something done.

Re:You are so naive (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417853)

Find anyone down wind of any packing plant. They all complain. Yet there wasn't a single complaint of blood in the creek on record until these drone enthusiasts ACCIDENTALLY photographed this stream. They didn't go looking for it. Nobody had any clue.

Re:You are so naive (3, Informative)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417889)

That's a far cry from "what neighbors". And evidently, this wasn't the first time there were problems since the packing plant went so far as to bypass another pipe that was monitored by the county in order to keep dumping. Meanwhile, they are supposed to be regularly inspected anyway, so there was no need for probable cause to inspect the operation carefully.

Re:You are so naive (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418007)

What neighbors was exactly correct. No one lived along the banks of the polluted portion of the stream. Go look at a map and stop being so argumentative.

Down wind is not the same as down stream. There are no neighbors down stream along the Creek before it joins the river.

Re:You are so naive (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417995)

You can read a map can't you?

The stream that ran red was that little stream that runs past the plant, and wanders around in fields before emptying into the river. You couldn't even detect the blood in the river because it was so diluted. You could only see it in that half mile of deserted stream.

Re:You are so naive (1)

richlv (778496) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418893)

don't they have vampires around there ? they could have used the byproduct as an extra income, and avoided polluting the river.
as a bonus, vampires wouldn't kill off as many innocent people. win-win-win !

Re:You are so naive (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417419)

There had been complaints for years. Are you saying that the government couldn't possibly have investigated in any way at all including use of a helicopter like the one the cops around here use routinely to look for pot growers or an airplane like they use in Florida to catch speeders?

Given the time laps between the citizen gathered evidence going viral and actual action being taken, it does indeed look like the government was perfectly content to ignore it until they were shamed into action.

Re:You are so naive (0)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417633)

Lapsed time is about on par for this type of crime. Actually 12 months is pretty short, after all once the story hit the mainstream, you can bet they stopped dumping. And pig blood is not exactly a toxic substance leading to fish die offs.

Further, all the prior complaints were about smell. What packing plant DOESN'T smell.

Re:You are so naive (4, Informative)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417857)

See also this [nbcdfw.com] . It has a better description of how much blood and where it ran.

And yes, that much blood IS toxic to the environment and can lead to fish die-offs in the same way that fertilizer runoff can. It can also create an awful stench as it decays on the banks.

And it's 12 months after a citizen presented rock solid evidence of wrongdoing. It was years since the complaints started.

Truthiness (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418407)

I think the point of the summary is valid. The neighbors have been complaining about the stench, the relevant public servants did nothing. The internet buzzed with the truth, embarrassing said public servants into performing their duties.
All of this is very familiar to me, except for the publicity and the public servants doing their jobs part, I've only heard about that.
Put on the tinfoil once in a while, and don't believe everything you think.

Re:You are so naive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418669)

Whatever. There is always someone who says that everything is ok to balance when someone says it's not.

Ah, no... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416289)

Money is an abstract representation of how much influence one has over others. Once upon a time, it might have been an abstract representation of an in-demand raw material, but no longer.

The reason wealth and power always go hand-in-hand is precisely because they are fundamentally the same thing. If you cannot see this, then perhaps it is YOU who are naive.

Re:You are so naive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417355)

Like people tell me, and I will put out there as a devil's advocate:

You can't eat ethics.

Re:You are so naive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416839)

By definition, the rich posses much more stuff that other people wish to take, and therefore are more threatened by a significant larger number of people who want to take their stuff from them, no matter who stands in the way. Therefore, it's quite natural that security forces invest more resources in protecting those who are bigger targets, because they would guarantee a more lucrative return on their investment in crime.

Case in point: third world countries like Brazil. How many times do you hear about gangs kidnapping the offspring of poor homeless peasants? How many times do you hear about gangs kidnapping the offspring of rich people? QED.

If the police's job is to protect those who need protecting then it's rather obvious that they tend to help the rich, because they need much more protection than those who have nothing to be robbed off them.

Re:Would have preferred (1)

houbou (1097327) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416037)

I agree with you, but unfortunately, the right thing to do is not synonymous with the most profitable thing to do.. :(

Re:Would have preferred (4, Interesting)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416101)

Seriously.

Folks lambaste the "Court of Public Opinion" for subverting the justice system, but that seems to be the only one that works sometimes.

Re:Would have preferred (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416633)

This is Texas we're talking about. I can't believe anybody gives a damn about the environment at all in that neocon hellhole. ..

Re:Would have preferred (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416791)

I would have preferred, "Planning authorities deny application to build pipe from factory to river".

Even Better (1)

caspy7 (117545) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416961)

"Authorities had to act because it was THEIR FRICKIN' JOB"

Re:Would have preferred (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418081)

Isn't it clear? Pigs = Terrorists.

This is for your own good, now move along, citizen.

Pig blood, that is. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415425)

Red gold. Texas tea.

I believe this is the first (5, Insightful)

koan (80826) | about a year and a half ago | (#42415443)

And most likely one of the last as new regulations pushed forth by corporate lobbies will restrict drone use or create "air space" restrictions over corporate land.

Re: I believe this is the first (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415939)

I can hardly wait for the "voyeur drone porno" fetish to become widespread. Imagine being able to see an unknowing woman up close outside her second-story sorority-house bathroom window, with a constant propeller buzz in the background audio, camera shaking just enough for effect but stabilized just enough to see that college coed stepping out of the shower and drying herself off. Mmmm, I bet that pink towel smells good after a straight week of use.

The really cool videos of this genre will have the drone spy on a woman until she sees it and shrieks, then the drone will move to another bathroom window down the street to spy again.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re: I believe this is the first (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416185)

Of course it's way to time consuming (ie: expensive) to find the right shots, so it will just be a bunch of porn actresses pretending they had no idea they left their curtains open for the hovering drone. You know, just like all the movies where that chick has never really thought about kissing a girl before, but... what they heck....oh, hey, turns out that first-timer eats pussy like a pro.

Re: I believe this is the first (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416131)

Perhaps, but what little good drones over corporate lands would do would likely be far outweighed by the good a law that prevents the pervert down the street from doing the same to you. I welcome any law that stops this nonsense before it gets out of hand. One good deed does not make drones a good thing.

Re: I believe this is the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416229)

I'm inclined to think the same.

I hate the idea that people won't be able to fly their own UAV's, if only because I'm interested in it myself and I think there's great utility there. But the idea of everyone being able to easily photograph/record whatever they want from above is genuinely creepy. It used to be you could put up a fence, and anyone photographing into a home from the street would get their ass kicked, but the only privacy available now is living in a concrete box with no windows or view of the sky.

But either way, police are using them now, so there's little expectation of privacy from above anyways. :/

Re: I believe this is the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416669)

So... you're afraid of technology? Got it.

Please turn over your geek card on the way out.

Re: I believe this is the first (3, Insightful)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417151)

So... you're afraid of technology? Got it. Please turn over your geek card on the way out.
Geeks love and fear technology. Gotta get me a GPS, gotta get me an iphone, gotta get me an internet enabled car, gotta put my data in the cloud. Oh noes! The GPS knows where I am! My Iphone is collecting my data! My car is broadcasting my bad driving habits to my insurance company! The cloud is selling off my private data!

Re: I believe this is the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417711)

So... you're afraid of technology? Got it.

Some technologies, yes. So are you.

But let's be clear, I'm not "afraid" of hobby UAV's so much as I'm bothered by the total lack of privacy, anywhere, ever.

Re: I believe this is the first (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418955)

Do you think these laws would stop government and corporate drones as well? We already have Google Street View vans & drones and others used for mapping, police drones, and the DHS and three-letter spook agencies will have them soon if they don't already. If laws won't be put in place to stop those as well then I say leave the playing field level.

Re: I believe this is the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416549)

There already is legislation preventing photos from being taken of farmlands. I am sure that it applies to UAVs as well.

Re: I believe this is the first (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417145)

new regulations pushed forth by corporate lobbies will restrict drone use or create "air space" restrictions over corporate land.
It is already illegal to take pictures that one would have to take extraordinary means to take. Taking a photo from the street is fine. Getting up on a ladder and taking a photo would be illegal. Taking a photo from a drone would be similarly illegal. It would be illegal to use a photo taken from a UAV to launch an investigation such as was done here. However, once you see something, you can't unsee it, and so as soon as they saw it and launched an investigation, they pretty much had all the evidence they needed. The fact that it was kicked off by somebody else doing something illegal is overlooked. It is the court of public opinion, which is all well and good, unless the public doesn't like something YOU are doing.
This is like a burglar breaking into your house and notices you have some marijuana and calls the cops on you.

Re: I believe this is the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417739)

Oh noes!!! you mean we can't use our UAVs to scope out women who like to sunbath naked in their back yards in our neighborhoods!! Arrgh!!... what next!!

Re: I believe this is the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418133)

More importantly, the police are only in the business of making arrests and gathering evidence of crimes. A criminal reporting a crime is still a criminal, but his evidence can still be used against other criminals. It's only if the police used the UAV that the evidence would be inadmissible.

Re: I believe this is the first (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418487)

It is already illegal to take pictures that one would have to take extraordinary means to take. Taking a photo from the street is fine. Getting up on a ladder and taking a photo would be illegal.

Getting on a ladder is "extraordinary means"?

Taking a photo from a drone would be similarly illegal.

Aircraft were arguably invented for scouting, photos have been taken from them for as long as photos have existed. Taking a photo from an aircraft is not illegal, what do you think "satellite" view in Google Earth is?

Joy at the suffering of others. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415473)

I bet this made some rich people very angry! Rich people really, really hate being forced to follow the same rules as everyone else.

The first (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415487)

Farmer to shoot down one of these terror drones will be a national hero.

legal stuff (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#42415489)

You can't record a phone call or in-person conversation in non-public places without warning and use it as evidence but guess what, past a thousand feet above your property or whatever the hell it is, you don't own a damn thing so say cheese and see you in court.

Re:legal stuff (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#42415507)

Because it's view able from anybody flying buy..walking by even if it isn't fenced,.
You don't really have a right to privacy in your backyard.

Re:legal stuff (2)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about a year and a half ago | (#42415583)

The rules were written for audio. Not inexpensive consumer grade video taken from your personal helicopter.

Re:legal stuff (1)

couchslug (175151) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416043)

"You can't record a phone call or in-person conversation in non-public places without warning and use it as evidence"

That depends there is a consenting party to that conversation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_recording_laws [wikipedia.org]

Re:legal stuff (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416807)

"That depends there is a consenting party to that conversation:"

It also depends on what state you are in. Only twelve states (according to that Wikipedia article) have all-party consent laws. A sad minority, if you ask me. I think "one-party consent" is a completely ridiculous standard.

Re:legal stuff (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417161)

It also depends on what state you are in. Only twelve states (according to that Wikipedia article) have all-party consent laws. A sad minority, if you ask me. I think "one-party consent" is a completely ridiculous standard.
Yes, my state is one party consent, and that party can be the one doing the recording. Kind of pointless.

Re:legal stuff (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417833)

"Yes, my state is one party consent, and that party can be the one doing the recording. Kind of pointless."

Yes, exactly. It seems to me, if you were having a conversation with someone (in person or via telephone or whatever), and you said "Let's keep this confidential", and they agreed... that you would have a "reasonable expectation of privacy".

And most such laws are based on "a reasonable expectation of privacy".

The good news (only a little bit related) is that if you ever get or make a telephone call, and the other side says "calls may be recorded for [whatever reason]", you can safely record that conversation without notice to anybody because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Re:legal stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418175)

I'm happy with one-party consent. I've called places to deal with disputes, and had I told them I was recording, I would get hung up on immediately. Instead, I was able to record obvious lies and malfeasance and present it for legal action.

Case settled out of court.

The big guys record all shit anyway, might as well be able to yourself.

Re:legal stuff (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416787)

"You can't record a phone call or in-person conversation in non-public places without warning and use it as evidence..."

In many states you can do exactly that: only one party (that would be you here) has to consent to the recording. In fact, and unfortunately, I think the majority of states have this ridiculous law.

"... but guess what, past a thousand feet above your property or whatever the hell it is, you don't own a damn thing so say cheese and see you in court."

Again it depends on the state. I know of at least one state in which any measures taken in order to see what's on a property beyond what can be seen by a casual passerby can be considered "illegal surveillance", and can only be done with a judicial warrant.

So, if I were a resident of that state, theoretically you could stand on a ladder to talk to me over the back fence, but you could not stand on a ladder in order to SEE over my back fence. The same applies to drones, civilian and law enforcement... even if they are not OVER the property in question. The only thing that matters is that they are where they are IN ORDER TO see onto that property.

Of course, intent can sometimes be hard to prove, so these issues have to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Re:legal stuff (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418501)

Why is it ridiculous to make it legal to record what people say to me? If you don't want it on record, don't say it.

Re:legal stuff (1)

jockm (233372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417441)

So by the logic the fleets of planes used by Google, Microsoft, Apple, and other mapping companies would need the prior consent of the property owners. The same would be — potentially, depending where you live — of commercial flights over your house as well.

It is legal to look in though someone's window as well. The right of privacy varies between states and country's but as a kind of general rule, the issues becomes when one goes to extraordinary effort to look at something that would not normally be visible. So did the sUAV in question violate their airspace? Did it have an out of the ordinary zoom lens, was it flying in areas planes aren't allowed to fly? Was it violating FAA regulations?

Re:legal stuff (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418497)

You can't record a phone call or in-person conversation in non-public places without warning and use it as evidence

You may live in one of the few places where that's true, but most everyone else doesn't.

I know I shouldn't RTFA (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415641)

But I did, and then browsed around and ran across this totally offtopic but rather cool project. A range finding radar project using tin cans, candar?

http://www.suasnews.com/2012/12/20299/build-a-small-radar-system-capable-of-sensing-range-doppler-and-synthetic-aperture-radar-imaging/ [suasnews.com]

Re:I know I shouldn't RTFA (1)

Ogi_UnixNut (916982) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418803)

Mod parent up! This is quite awesome (I actually found it more interesting than this topic). I do wonder if it will ever come to a point when people will start shooting drones down that cross over to their property. Most likely to occur in America or Russia/Eastern Europe, due to the general population being more pro-gun then in the EU nations.

Are there any legal issues with shooting down drones over your territorry in the USA? I presume you can shoot all you want on your land, what about above it?

Re:I know I shouldn't RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418899)

IIRC from a previous topic, you only own the airspace to a certain heigh above your land. That height is based on the range of an average rifle from when the laws were made (but I could be getting quite wrong on that point). So basically past a certain point is considered public property which is why the cops can get away with it.

Small steps (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415685)

Authorities need probable cause and a warrant to search your home. But, neither is required to recruit your neighbor to tell them what they see in your home.

See something, say something is just another small step toward tyranny, and we will all be the culprits.

Re:Small steps (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416245)

On the other hand, they don't own the creek, we do. So why can't we sic our elected officials on them?
See something say something is democracy in action you clown.

They had to act because of the attention? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415785)

Err I thought they would have had to act because you know laws where been broken not because it got publicity. But hay I guess that's how laws are enforced nowaways who knew?

blood is a pollutant? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415885)

What next? They'll be claiming the breath you exhale is pollution too!

Re:blood is a pollutant? (2)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417187)

What next? They'll be claiming the breath you exhale is pollution too!
Any naturally occurring substance, if present due to the action or lack of action of a human being, is apparently a pollutant.

Re:blood is a pollutant? (1)

xaxa (988988) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418749)

What next? They'll be claiming the breath you exhale is pollution too!

Too much fertilizer in the river will kill all the fish, as algae will grow so much they Jude all the oxygen when they decay.

(IIRC from age ~15at school. Eutrophication.)

Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers (3, Interesting)

theodp (442580) | about a year and a half ago | (#42415897)

Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers [motherjones.com] : Thanks to a five million dollar grant awarded by Google on Tuesday, the organization is expanding its use of unmanned aerial vehicles to track and deter criminals who illegally hunt endangered animal species around the world. WWF spokesman Lee Poston is not calling these vehicles drones, because he doesn't want people to confuse them with the military kind. According to Poston, they are "sophisticated radio-controlled devices like hobbyists use" that can be "controlled from your iPad or other device." But the WWF website does call them "conservation drones."

Re:Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417201)

Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers [motherjones.com]: Thanks to a five million dollar grant awarded by Google on Tuesday, the organization is expanding its use of unmanned aerial vehicles to track and deter criminals who illegally hunt endangered animal species around the world. WWF spokesman Lee Poston is not calling these vehicles drones, because he doesn't want people to confuse them with the military kind. According to Poston, they are "sophisticated radio-controlled devices like hobbyists use" that can be "controlled from your iPad or other device." But the WWF website does call them "conservation drones."
Yay google! Way to fight those criminals by becoming criminals yourself. If you can't beat 'em join 'em, I guess.

Re:Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418465)

I don't really see how Google becomes criminals by doing this ; but I salute you for your desperate efforts to make Google look evil in any situation.

Re:Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers (3, Funny)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418505)

Yay google! Way to fight those criminals by becoming criminals yourself. If you can't beat 'em join 'em, I guess.

Are rhino poachers constitutionally protected in Africa? Slashdot is so informative.

Re:Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417697)

I'll bet for 5 million dollars, you could, with more certainty, cause rhinos to go extinct.

Just sayin... extinction of rhinos is attainable... stopping all rhino poachers is somewhat more nebulous. Hope the rhinos win, but I really don't care,

co3k (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42415911)

and shouting 7hat laRge - keep your

Scandal that isn't (5, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#42415985)

The story is self-congratulatory and implies that the authorities only did their job because of the publicity on the issue. While it is true that the authorities only acted because of the original story, there is no evidence that once they were made aware of the story that they did not move at a deliberate pace in order to determine how widespread the infraction was and to prosecute it. The fact of the matter is that depending on how the plant was set up, there would have been no reason for a government official to observe the pollution. That is the only reason that they needed the original story in order to act. They had to know there was something to act on.

Re:Scandal that isn't (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416321)

Exactly.

Had the authorities demanded to search the plant for no reason, the same conspiratorial whack jobs posting as AC here would have condemned them for that. Had they flown their own drone it would have been government invasion of privacy. Had government posted stream guards at every stream and river it would be a run away gestapo police state.

When made aware of a crime with clear evidence they took action. Yet virtually every AC posting here twists it into some shallow victory of a hundred citizens standing up to city hall.

Re:Scandal that isn't (2)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416661)

>The story is self-congratulatory and implies that the authorities only did their job because of the publicity on the issue

The court of public opinion is an amazing thing, and it definitely affects who our elected officials choose to investigate and prosecute. With 'scandals' like the warrantless wiretaps and retroactive forgiveness for large corporations it's not surprising that some people would automatically assume the worst in a situation. Given the lax prosecution on past environmental disasters and deaths that have resulted, some people expect it.

Re:Scandal that isn't (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417225)

Pretty much this is the case. There are inspectors in texas, but they seem to only give warnings if the do anything at all. And then the situation is set up so the owners are not responsible. For instance in 2005, 15 workers were killed at BP in Texas City A year later another worker was killed. None of these were BP related, because these were contract workers. There were many safety citation which were never enforced. And BP does not care because they contractors, who have no control over the safety, are the one's responsible for the workers.

So no, it is not reasonable to say that they did not know and should not have known and really had no reason to know. In fact it is reasonable to assume that they did not, in some file somewhere is a warning and many even a promise form the owners to fix it. But without real fines and even criminal penalty, there is no incentive to make changes that are only going to make a plant unprofitable.

So, BP has some of the most dangerous plants in the world, and over the past 5 years because of publicity they seem to be safer. This is the way things change in Texas. To shame the people who are only cared about profits. There is a lot of money in Texas, and most believe that it is uncool to kill people to save a buck. There are people who are paid a lot for semi skilled work, but that is because the work is dangerous, though no one is paid to die.

A positive use for drones (3)

MrKaos (858439) | about a year and a half ago | (#42415997)

This will soon come to the attention of legislators through corporate lobby groups who seek to undermine the power of people to be able to conduct affairs that protect the public good and limit profit.

Propaganda by the Meat Packers (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416147)

Let's not forget they posted this cynical video on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-SGE5AHlns

Then instructed all their employees to like and put positive comments.

Re:Propaganda by the Meat Packers (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416167)

http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/2012/03/in-letter-and-video-joe-ondrus.html/

"The City will use all legal means possible to ensure that Columbia Packing, or any company in the City, is not allowed to continue to discharge illicit waste and potentially harm the public and the environment.
Columbia Packing officials, on video, focus on a hidden pipe on their property that they claim was clogged with brick and other material. What company officials do not address is another hidden pipe discovered that was installed to bypass the City’s monitoring device in the sanitary sewer line. The installation of that bypass allowed the discharge of pig blood and other unsanitary waste materials without City oversight. Columbia Packing has failed to document when and how this bypass was installed. The bypass pipe appeared to be of recent vintage.

The search warrant and associated affidavit speak for themselves and clearly outline daily investigatory activities on the part of the City and other investigators from the day the situation was brought to the City’s attention."

Re:Propaganda by the Meat Packers (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42416341)

Yeah, so what?

You do know what the word "indictment" means don't you? It means it didn't work.

Slashdot Repeat (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416235)

Too bad this story was covered 12 months ago: http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/01/25/0037226/amateur-uav-pilot-exposes-texas-river-of-blood

Re:Slashdot Repeat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416447)

If by repeat you mean follow up, then yes. The indictment is a new development.

minus 1, TroQll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42416377)

It sounded like news from China (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417245)

Someone found some ugly truth about an corp and report on it. The public becomes enraged, then the official "react".

Fewer discretionary laws (1)

Revek (133289) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417379)

We need to make the laws more ironclad. So many laws are at the discretion of the officials. If they choose not to fine or arrest someone for wrong doing its okay. They are not disciplined and do not face termination for choosing to ignore crimes. In this case the local powers that be tried to ignore it until they had no choice but to act. Their plan A was to wait for it to blow over.

Re:Fewer discretionary laws (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417691)

I can sympathize with your intent, but unfortunately, that doesn't work very well either. There are way too many things that are technically illegal that nobody takes seriously (and enforcement never happens). There are way too many extenuating circumstances for most anything to possibly list them all in a law, but nevertheless, most agree that they ARE extenuating and should lessen the penalty or even render the act legal.

Zero tolerance is what brings us things like honor students suspended when their little brother leaves a cap gun in the car and other such idiocy [akdart.com] .

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417387)

"Authorities had to act because of the attention the story was receiving."

'Authorities' ... 'had' ... 'to act' .... 'because of [] attention'?! This is mindless !

Authorities never need to 'act' on any account regardless of 'attention' and not
ever a point of ethics, law or heavens forbid ... morality.

'Authorities' never act by ethics, law or morality !

'Authorities' act by greed, jealously, insanity, and all the other sins.

'Authorities' ARE sin.

Never trust ... 'Authority'; that ... will be your error, ... if you do.

Re:WTF (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417481)

And yet, you trust - YOURSELF
are you an authority?

Illegal in Iowa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417673)

Interestingly enough, this would have been illegal in Iowa since you're not allowed to take photographs of farms without permission of the owner of the farm [theatlantic.com] .

Good start. Now: more & better drone-cam's, pl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418015)

Great story!

Now, let's add drone-cam's to our Internet Journo go kits (along with small MP3 recorders & pocket digi.cam's/video, & - sometimes - scanners).

Drone-cam's seem -much- safer than other kinds of cameras (ie, if your control signals aren't triangulated)... buzz the bad guys' eco or animal mistreatment patches, call home the drone(s), upload the photos / videos - along with patch location details & crowd-source some justifiable crowd-outrage.

We need CHEAP, long-fly-time drones, with encrypted control signaling (if not already the norm), so we won't lose 'em to control signal hackers... better cameras, etc.

Sorry, this guy should be in prison. (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418151)

He purposely flew high enough to see on private property and is now giving the business a bad name, endangering countless jobs. This should not be celebrated, he should be condemned to prison for a lengthy term for interrupting domestic commerce in a time of war. Life in prison would be a gift, given the circumstances.

Besides that, I doubt there was ever a regulation about dumping that specific substance into that specific river. Who are we, communists?

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