California Drones Bill Vetoed, Police Not Required to Obtain Warrants for Unmanned Surveillance

Josh WolfordTechnology

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California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have instituted regulations on drone use by public agencies – including the police. Among other things, the bill would have forced police, in most cases, to obtain a warrant to surveil the public with unmanned aircraft systems.

"I am returning Assembly Bill 1327 without my signature," said Gov. Brown in his veto letter. "There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution."

What are these 'narrow' exemptions? According to the text of the bill:

(1) emergency situations if there is an imminent threat to life or of great bodily harm, including, but not limited to, fires, hostage crises, “hot pursuit” situations if reasonably necessary to prevent harm to law enforcement officers or others, and search and rescue operations on land or water.

(2) To assess the necessity of first responders in situations relating to traffic accidents.

(3) (A) To inspect state parks and wilderness areas for illegal vegetation or fires.

All other public agencies (other than law enforcement) would be able to operate drones – after reasonable public notice – if it was to "achieve the core mission of the agency provided that the purpose is unrelated to the gathering of criminal intelligence."

The bill's author, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, is none too pleased with the veto.

"We're increasingly living in a surveillance society as the government uses new technology to track and watch the activities of Americans," he told the LA Times. "It's disappointing that the governor decided to side with law enforcement in this case over the privacy interests of California."

The bill had the full support of privacy advocates. As Ars Technica points out, 10 states have already enacted similar legislation, forcing police to obtain warrants for drone surveillance.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Josh Wolford

Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer.

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