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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Familiar-Looking, Proposed Drone Restriction in Massachusetts

The Associated Press reports that a bill to limit the use of drones is scheduled for a hearing in the Massachusetts Senate Transportation Committee. Nashoba Publishing has more details on the bill here. The bill would restrict the use of drones by law enforcement to situations where officers obtain a warrant, or when there is an emergency. The bill would also ban the use of weaponized drones. Beyond the ban on weaponized drones, there appears to be no limit on the use of drones by non-government parties.

The full text of the bill is available here.

After looking over the bill, I notice that it is very similar to Rhode Island's proposed bill to limit the use of drones by law enforcement. I blogged about the Rhode Island legislation here.

The similarity between these two bills can probably be explained by looking to a supporter that both bills have in common: the ACLU. Here, the ACLU of Rhode Island announces that it is supporting H7170, the bill that I blogged about earlier. And here, the ACLU announces that it is supporting S1664, the Massachusetts bill that would limit law enforcement's use of drones. The ACLU is also supporting H1357 in Massachusetts, which seems to be the same as S1664.

Since the Massachusetts bill is extremely similar to the Rhode Island bill, I will not repeat my earlier evaluations of the Rhode Island bill, which you can read here. I will only add that the ACLU seems to be doing an effective job of trying to limit government use of drones, but private use of drones is something that state legislatures will need to address as drones become more available to private parties.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island focus on government drones, but legislatures in these states must not forget that private parties can violate privacy rights too.

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