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Brown Drone Veto Concerns Privacy Advocates

David Rodriguez Martin, flickr

David Rodriguez Martin, flickr

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill this week that would have required California law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before using drones for surveillance. That pleases law enforcement agencies, but leaves privacy advocates worried.

Elk Grove Police Chief Robert Lehner is with the California Police Chiefs Association, which opposed the bill. He says the bill would have allowed a hobbyist to fly drones but not police.

"These are valuable tools to aid us in our mission to protect the public,” he says. “And what it comes down to is good law and good policy to go along with the tool.”

Lehner says privacy concerns are overblown because drones don’t do anything helicopters or satellites can’t do.

"In terms of the capability of a camera system, you can see into people’s backyards from space,” he says. “So the issue of what can you see, versus how high are you really is irrelevant.”

But the ACLU's Natasha Minsker says satellites can't see inside her house.

"A drone you can use to actually peer inside someone’s window and get up close and personal,” she says. “It’s really a new technology that allows law enforcement to invade your privacy in ways that are unprecedented and potentially terrifying."

Minsker says the public has privacy concerns and Brown’s veto will create uncertainty. 

"There are going to be court challenges to uses of drones and they will have no guidance on a state-wide level,” she says. “So it’s going to create a real hodge-podge of court challenges and local regulations that’s going to create confusion.”

In his veto, Brown says the bill placed too many restrictions on law enforcement.

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