Washington Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed state legislation Friday that would have regulated government and law enforcement use of drones, but he felt the bill did not go far enough to protect privacy rights.
As the drone debate continues on, Inslee called for a 15-month moratorium on the use or purchase of unmanned aircraft by state agencies for anything other than emergencies such as forest fires.
Inslee added that will create a task force this month to further examine the privacy issues around the use of drones with the goal of producing a new bill for next year’s legislative session.
Inslee said the combination of the moratorium and the task force to further study the issue, “should satisfy the privacy rights and interests of people in the next few months” while also ensuring “a comprehensive bill next session.”
Unmanned aerial vehicles, known more commonly as drones, have gained lots of media attention lately for their military spying capabilities overseas, but state and local governments see advantages in them in a variety of different sectors such as emergency management and agricultural research.
Civil liberty advocates have fought against their use saying regardless of their mission, they can be used to illegally survey Americans. In response to these critics, a number of state and local governments are exploring ways to bring in the technology while working with privacy groups to puts rules and regulations in place regarding their use.
In Washington, the bill Inslee vetoed would have required state and local government entities to get approval for purchase of drones and to have clear and publicly disclosed policies regulating their deployment.
In addition, while certain applications such as wildlife or environmental surveying and use in emergencies were exempted, the use of drones for surveillance would otherwise have required a search warrant issued by a court.
Inslee called it “one of the most complex bills we’ve had to analyze” and said the emerging technology of drones creates difficult issues for government. The bill had some conflicting provisions on disclosure of personal information, he said.
“I’m very concerned about the effect of this new technology on our citizens’ right to privacy,” he said. “People have a desire not to see drones parked outside their kitchen window by any public agency.”