RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is voicing its strong support for a bipartisan bill introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly this week that would place safeguards on the use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, in North Carolina.
“We applaud this bipartisan group of lawmakers for coming together in the interest of protecting privacy rights for all North Carolinians,” said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the ACLU-NC. “Across the country, law enforcement agencies are greatly expanding their use of domestic drones to conduct surveillance on citizens, often without any oversight. We urge the North Carolina General Assembly to seize this opportunity to place strong safeguards and regulations on the use of drones, before this technology spreads further in North Carolina.”
H.B. 312, the “Preserving Privacy Act of 2013,” would prohibit individuals and government agencies, including law enforcement, from using a drone to gather evidence or other data on individuals without first obtaining a warrant that shows probable cause ofcriminal activity. The bill includes an exception that allows law enforcement to use a drone to conduct searches if the agency possesses “reasonable suspicion” that immediate action is necessary to prevent certain types of immediate harm.
The bill’s primary sponsors are Representatives Mitchell Setzer (R-Catawba), Tim Moffit (R-Buncombe), Duane Hall (D-Wake), and Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford).
The city council of Monroe, North Carolina, recently gave its police department approval to purchase a $44,000 drone equipped with a rotating infrared camera that could be used to monitor and store data on citizens. The Gaston County Police Department purchased a similar drone in 2006 for $30,000, but officials say it has never been used because of mechanical problems. The Federal Aviation Administration has estimated that as many as 30,000 drones could be in American skies by the end of the decade.