Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Anti-drone bill out of Florida Legislature wins applause from ACLU

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 4:55 PM

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On Tuesday morning, the Florida Senate's Committee on Criminal Justice voted unanimously to advance SB 92, a bill sponsored by Stuart Republican Joe Negron that would limit the use of drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicle) by law enforcement officials.

"Drones are fine to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they shouldn't be used to monitor the lawful activities," said Negron. "We shouldn't as a general practice have drones hovering in the sky monitoring Floridians."

According to a Senate staff analysis, the Miami-Dade Police Department became the first law enforcement agency in the state and the nation equipped with drones, but so far has made little use of them.

Negron's bill is getting applause from the Florida office of the ACLU.

"The ACLU has serious concerns about unregulated, warrantless use of unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance technology to collect information about individuals," said ACLU of Florida head Howard Simon. "The pace by which surveillance technology has evolved in recent years has so far outstripped the pace at which laws have adapted to protect individuals' privacy."

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the committee adopted an amendment that would allow the use of drones if a judge allows one to be used to complete a search warrant, if there is a "terrorist attack," or in "exigent circumstances" when, for instance, a person's life is in danger, such as a hostage situation.

Members of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association, and the Public Defenders Association have all announced their support for the legislation.

The ACLU's Howard Simon said that strict controls are needed to help guide law enforcement in using surveillance technology.

"Technology has pushed us into a new frontier in privacy, and the principles behind Senator Negron's bill establish guideposts for how to keep Floridians both safe and free in this new era," he said.

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