Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Utah to restrict spying by government drones?
SB167 » Legislation would require warrants except in the case of emergencies.
First Published Jan 30 2014 05:24 pm • Last Updated Jan 30 2014 10:32 pm

As society zooms into the age of the drones, one Utah lawmaker is trying to establish ground rules to regulate government and law-enforcement surveillance of citizens by unmanned aircraft.

"Currently, because this is such new technology, there are no real regulations," Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said Thursday. "There are FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] regulations about safety of airborne vehicles, but there’s nothing about privacy related to unmanned aircraft that can collect data and information about citizens."

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Stephenson’s SB167 was introduced in the Senate on Thursday. It has yet to be assigned to a committee for public debate.

More than a dozen states have limited drone use to protect citizen rights, according to the Associated Press. New Hampshire’s Legislature had a hearing on two such proposals Thursday and the California state Assembly passed a tough drone-restriction bill on Wednesday.

In some states, law-enforcement agencies have come out in opposition to such regulation. The New Hampshire police chiefs association, for example, opposes legislation there, arguing drone technology could save lives.

No such opposition has materialized yet in Utah, but that may just be because it’s early in the legislative session.

The law enforcement legislative committee, including representatives from police chiefs, sheriffs, the attorney general’s office and other agencies, hasn’t had a chance to examine SB167, said spokesman Ken Wallentine. It likely will take a look at the bill at its Monday meeting.

The drone standards Stephenson wants to see enacted would apply to state and local governments, regulatory agencies and law enforcement.

SB167 would prohibit using drones for gathering information without a warrant except in special circumstances — such as if someone gives written consent, if a person’s life or safety is in danger, or in emergency situations, such as threats to national security, in which a warrant would have been granted if officials had had time to obtain one. In such circumstances, a warrant application would need to be submitted within 48 hours after use.

Information gathered by drones on anything other than the specified target would have to be destroyed within 24 hours, unless the deletion would also erase data related to the operation. Information collected outside of the bill’s guidelines would not be permissible as evidence.


story continues below
story continues below

Stephenson said he does not know if any agency in the state is using drones.

Dan Garfield, an organizer of the "Restore the 4th" Utah advocacy group, likes the intent of the bill.

"It sounds like it’s pretty wise to answer these questions now before they’re in use — because they will be used," Garfield said. "People using drones constantly feel they can use drones for things they otherwise wouldn’t do. .... I’m fine with us using drones in situations where it would be OK for us to use a police helicopter."

As important as ensuring proper oversight, Garfield said, is guaranteeing transparency.

SB167 would address that concern by requiring agents who use drones to file yearly reports to the Department of Public Safety, which then would be posted online. These reports would contain the number of times an agent used a drone, the number of criminal investigations aided by using drones, how the drones helped with the investigations, the type and frequency of data collected on people, buildings and other targets and the cost of the drone use.

Information about ongoing investigations could be excluded from public reports but would be publicly disclosed later.

Judges and the attorney general also would be required to submit reports on all drone warrants that they approved, denied or extended during the year.

twebb@sltrib.com

Twitter: @topherjwebb



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.