A bill to ban warrantless drone surveillance has been introduced in Kentucky. Grassroots support is needed to help it pass.

House Bill 12 (HB12) was introduced by Rep. Diane St. Onge and would ban law enforcement from using drones for surveillance without a warrant. It would also ban law enforcement agencies in the state from even receiving such warrantless information if collected from an outside source, such as a private contractor or a federal agency.

The bill also states that “neither facial recognition nor other biometric matching technology may be used on nontarget data collected by a drone” and that “drones may not be equipped with a lethal payload.”

Under the bill, these restrictions would not apply to an “active service member in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, or a reserve component thereof, or of the Army National Guard or Air Force National Guard who are stationed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky” but evidence gathered by these officials “shall not be admissible as evidence in any civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding within this state for the purpose of enforcing state or local law.”

Furthermore, the bill allows the private sector to use drones for business purposes and institutions of higher education to use drones for educational, research or testing purposes. Even with the limited applications of drones allowed under the bill, HB12 still provides Kentucky residents with added privacy protections and makes it more difficult for government officials at the state and local levels to violate civil liberties with rapidly-developing drone technology.

The ACLU has weighed in on the issue on a national level, warning that “unregulated drone use could pose serious threats to our privacy.”

Reports suggest that American skies could be filled with drones starting in 2015, with some saying that as many as 30,000 could be flying without restriction. Some privacy advocates take the position that this is just the beginning, pointing to the fact that one of the primary engines behind state and local adoption of drones is the federal government.

“We know that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is using grant money to get drones in the hands of local law enforcement,” said Michael Maharrey, executive director of the OffNow Project. “DHS and other federal agencies will never need to fly a single drone if they can just get all the states doing it for them. Once they’re in the air, they’ll simply point to information-sharing provisions of the PATRIOT Act or other federal acts and have a network of spies everywhere,” he continued. “By passing state laws to restrict drone use, we can stop this nightmare before it ever takes off.”

In recent years, a number of states have passed laws restricting drone use, including Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia.

HB12 is expected to be assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where it will first need to pass before going to the full house.

It is strongly recommended that Kentucky residents contact their state representative and urge their support of HB12 today. You can find their contact information HERE.

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