Utah lawmakers mull limits to drone use

Feb 25 2014 - 12:45pm

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(AP photo)
(AP photo)

SALT LAKE CITY - A state senator says the development of technology doesn't mean Big Brother should be able to snoop into the private lives of people not under surveillance.

Legislation putting limits on law enforcement's ability to use drones cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday morning.  Bill sponsor, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, worries without guidelines the technology allows too much of a situation described in George Orwell's "1984."

"There is a role for a drone. It's important for law enforcement to use every tool to protect safety of citizens, on the other hand for government to be doing as they did in "1984" to monitor people's every action, we don't want that," Stephenson said.

SB 167 requires law enforcement to get a search warrant to use a drone to gather information on a suspect and also requires data obtained on people, who are not the subject of the warrant, be destroyed in a reasonable time frame.  Stephenson said the bill is consistent with the Fourth Amendment protecting citizens against unwarranted search and seizure.

Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute, said a drone can be as small as a mosquito and can easily be deployed without a person being aware of its presence.

"It's very wise to pre-emptily react. I think this is a very pro-active step and part of a larger movement," Boyack said.

Amy Pomeroy, a resident, worried without restraint the new technology can be too easily abuse.

"We need to be ahead of the issue.  Giving government vast amounts of data is inherently dangerous," Pomeroy said.

Stephenson said his bill will not impede the ability of the state to develop beneficial uses for drones and he said his bill only addresses restraint with the technology for law enforcement.

 

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