Oregon bill regulates police use of drones


Rep. John Huffman & Rep. Gene Whisnant

Reps. Huffman & Whisnant Take a Stand for Privacy Rights Regarding Police Surveillance

SALEM – Rep. John Huffman (R – The Dalles) took a stand in defense of citizens’ privacy and civil rights Tuesday, supporting House Bill 2710 during a public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Huffman and Rep. Gene Whisnant (R – Sunriver), requires public bodies that use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, to adopt policies on their use, and requires a procedure for notifying the public on those policies.

“The goal of the legislation is to set statewide policy and guidance for the use of UAVs by public agencies, while ensuring that commercial applications, including agriculture, can continue to utilize the technology,” Rep. Huffman said. “It protects Oregonians’ privacy while still allowing law enforcement agencies engaging in search and rescue and other critical operations to utilize these tools.”

Under the bill, law enforcement agencies may use a UAV for surveillance only if a warrant is issued authorizing its use, the use is within a geographically confined, time-limited situation in which there is risk of serious physical harm to an individual, and the use is thoroughly documented by the agency.

It also limits operation of the UAV by law enforcement to collection of information about the target person for which the use is authorized. Further, law enforcement must avoid collection of information on other persons, residences or places. Images or other information acquired through the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency must be destroyed within 30 days, unless the information is needed as evidence in a criminal prosecution.

“We want to make sure that privacy is not compromised by new technology being used by public agencies and law enforcement,” Rep. Whisnant said.

HB 2710 further requires any public body using UAVs to adopt policies for their use that establish training requirements for operators and criteria for when they are used, along with a procedure for informing the public of the agency’s policies.

Rep. Whisnant added that the UAV industry is growing, especially in Central Oregon.  As such, legislation must enable the testing, manufacturing and commercial use of that technology while assuring that adequate safeguards are in place to protect citizens’ civil rights.