Posted by on April 25, 2013 in Blog

DroneThe drone bill proposed in the California State Assembly, AB 1327, will allow law enforcement agencies to use drones if they have obtained a warrant, or without a warrant in emergency situations (fires, hostage crises, search and rescue operations) or when there is an imminent threat; however, use of drones in such situations is limited to two hours. It also allows other public agencies to use drones to conduct geological inspections related to their mission, with prior approval of their governing legislative body. Public agencies would be required to provide one-time advance notice to the public and its governing legislative body (which, for states agencies, is the California State Legislature) would be required to have adopted policies governing the use and deployment drones.

The bill does require that all data obtained by an agency employing drones be permanently destroyed within 10 days, unless required as evidence of a crime, part of an ongoing investigation of a crime, or for training purposes, or pursuant to a court order. And it’s heartening that the statement specifies “ongoing investigation of a crime, which may address the potential of drone use for wide-swath surveillance, such as the NYPD’s spying program that targeted innocent Arab American and American Muslims. In that case, no specific crimes were being investigated, rather, the program was a data-collection endeavor based on the suspicion that individuals of particular religious affiliation or ethnic background were more likely to engage in terrorist activities.

However, the legislation does not address the use of collected data to construct a case against an individual who was not the primary target of the surveillance. Would data collected under these circumstances be allowed to remain in agency possession for unlimited period of time? Would law enforcement have open access to the data to track innocent members of the community caught on video? Could such documentation be used to construct a case against an individual for whom the agency had no other probable cause for surveillance?

Contact your state representatives and make sure they include real protections for their constituents in this bill before it comes up for a vote.

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