Don't like the idea of government drone surveillance of American citizens?
Neither does District 51A Rep. Sandra Masin, a DFLer who represents eastern Burnsville.
Drones, long a feature of warfare in the middle east, are now making their stateside debut. In fact, mini-drones are currently being developed at the United Technologies facility in Burnsville.
Masin and more than two dozen Minnesota legislators have thrown their support behind a bill prohibiting law enforcement from using unmanned aircraft in to gather evidence or other information, with several exceptions for emergency situations.
The proposal, authored by District 60B Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL), would also prevent private residents from using a drone for surveillance purposes and prohibit federal agencies from operating drones in Minnesota airspace.
The bill was introduced on March 18 and referred to the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.
"It is the purpose of this act to protect personal privacy and to authorize the use of drones only in instances of exigent circumstances or when law enforcement officials have obtained a court order," the bill text says.
Under the proposed legislation, law enforcement agencies would only be allowed to use a drone if:
- Employing a drone would mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack by an individual or organization;
- Law enforcement agencies obtain a search warrant authorizing the use of a drone;
- Swift action is need to prevent imminent danger to a life, serious damage to property, escape of a suspect or destruction of evidence;
- Or a first responder in an emergency medical situation.
“I’m concerned about how much of our private life is private life anymore. You can determine whether to use Facebook or other social media, and you're choosing to open yourself up when you're using some of that technology," Masin said.
Limited use of drones may have some practical purposes, like emergency responses in remote areas or forest fire-fighting efforts, Masin said. But the legislator feels strongly that a high-level discussion regarding the use of drone surveillance needs to take place.
"I understand when you’re using [drones] in the war zone, when they're doing that and it's protecting American lives," Masin said.
But "is [drone use] something we truly want to see in the confines of our country," Masin added.