By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
HARRISBURG – A Philadelphia state lawmaker wants to make sure that Pennsylvania citizens aren’t needlessly spied on by aerial drones.
State Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia, circulated a co-sponsorship memo Tuesday for a bill requiring law enforcement to get a court order from a judge before using “unmanned aircraft surveillance” in the commonwealth.
Cruz told his fellow lawmakers that the point of the bill is to protect against invasions of privacy. He also said his legislation would ensure drones would not be used in Pennsylvania “without reasonable cause given for their use and proper approval given from the court system.”
The authorization would be similar to the current rules law officers follow to intercept communication.
So far, the bill has four co-sponsors.
Cruz introduced the same bill last session. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, though it didn’t see a vote.
But the bill could have a different fate this year, as the national context of drone legislation in 2013 is much different. A growing number of states are looking to restrict domestic drone use in their airspace, or ban them altogether.
To the west, Missouri lawmakers are considering drone restrictions that would prevent government agencies from using drones and require police to get a warrant.
To the south, in the commonwealth of Virginia, a bill is pending that would prohibit state and local law enforcements from using drones until mid-2015. But Gov. Bob McDonnelll hasn’t yet said whether he’ll sign off on the legislation.
Further down the interstate, in Florida, lawmakers are considering a drone ban except for situations authorized by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The bill would keep law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather evidence against suspects. Beyond that, it would provide a legal mechanism to sue if the government violated the law.
Such legislation is praised by privacy rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a lawsuit against the federal government in regards to international drone use, specifically, the targeted drone killing of three U.S. citizens abroad as well as Freedom of Information Act lawsuits connected to the release of drone use records.
On domestic drone use, the ACLU advocates for clear privacy protections as well as usage limits.
“Routine aerial surveillance would profoundly change the character of public life in America,” the ACLU said on its website. “Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a ‘surveillance society’ in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the government.
Contact Melissa Daniels at [email protected]