Imagine sitting in your living room as a government drone silently monitors your activities from the skies above. Stealthily it records the information it sees and sends it to local law enforcement – or worse yet – your homeowners’ association.
That’s an eventuality that some Florida lawmakers are trying to prevent.
With several law enforcement agencies in the state already using unmanned drones for surveillance, lawmakers fear their use will become more commonplace, infringing on the privacy rights of everyday citizens.
"These issues are about boundaries and there is a line to be drawn," State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Naples, told the Orlando Sentinel. Negron is the sponsor of the Freedom for Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which made it through a panel of senators earlier this week. "You have to draw the line somewhere and so where I draw the line is having these unmanned drones hovering in the sky and potentially visualizing hundreds of these in the air over Florida at any given moment, just surveilling law-abiding Floridians."
Law enforcement agencies in Miami and Orange County already use the unmanned aircraft for surveillance purposes. While Largo’s Raytheon makes drones and has been the site of a protest against their use, the Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough county sheriff’s offices say they do not presently use drones and have no plans to do so.
Even so, Negron fears misuse of drones in Florida if something isn’t done to limit use now. The bill he’s introduced would still allow law enforcement to use drones when a judge has issued a search warrant or if there are extreme circumstances, such as a hostage crisis. It would prohibit homeowners’ associations and code enforcement agencies from using them.
The use of drones by government agencies, especially the military, has come under fire in recent months.
Here’s what we’d like to know from you, Tampa Bay: Do you think drones have a place in law enforcement? Or is Negron right to try and limit their use here in Florida? Share your thoughts in the comments section.