A bill introduced by Florida State Sen. Joe Negron would severely limit the use of unmanned flying surveillance drones by police and other law enforcement agencies.
Negron’s “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act”, Senate Bill 92, would create rules that would prohibit police from using drones that are capable of taking pictures and video in most situations.
“I am very opposed to making it a standard practice for the government to have drones floating in the sky, monitoring the lawful movements of Florida citizens,” Negron told reporters.
Negron said that he could see the potential for military use of the machines in combat zones, but believes they have no place flying over the heads of Americans.
“I’m not sure we would know they were being used,” Negron said. “A lot of these deployments are made in secrecy, and sometimes people found out they were being monitored months after the fact because this isn’t something that’s widely advertised.”
Under the provisions of the bill, any evidence originating from drones wouldn’t be admissible in court. Furthermore, it outlines clear guidelines for Floridians to file civil suits if they feel their privacy has been breached via use of a drone.
Negron says the only time drones should be lawfully used is if the federal government cites a high risk of terrorism or in emergencies. The bill also outlines procedures for agencies to seek search warrants to use the aircraft.
Such provisions should be standard in order to protect constitutional rights, however, the government is yet to place any restrictions on drone use, prompting police chiefs and congressional researchers to issue stark warnings.
A bill passed by Congress in February paves the way for the use of surveillance drones in US skies on a widespread basis. The FAA, which is currently drafting guidelines to streamline the use of domestic drones, predicts that by 2020 there could be up to 30,000 drones in operation nationwide.
Critics have warned that the FAA has not acted to establish any safeguards whatsoever, and that congress is not holding the agency to account.
Negron’s Florida bill has support from rights groups and, if signed into law, would take effect in July 2013, before the FAA guidelines are due to be officially revealed in 2015.
As we reported this week, thousands of pages of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) documents newly released under the Freedom Of Information Act have revealed that the military, as well as law enforcement agencies, are already extensively flying surveillance drones in non-restricted skies throughout the country.
In addition, information via news items, DHS press releases, and word of mouth has made it apparent that the Department of Homeland Security is overseeing predator drone flights for a range of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.