Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 13, 2012

Va. lawmaker, ACLU say bill will regulate drones

RICHMOND, Va. — One of Virginia’s most conservative lawmakers is working with the ACLU on legislation to regulate the use of unmanned aerial drones in the state.

Republican Del. Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia said Thursday that legislation will be introduced in the 2013 General Assembly session.

The increasing use of drones as a surveillance tool by police and government agencies has prompted privacy concerns nationwide.  A trade group for drone manufacturers recently unveiled its first code of conduct to reassure a public leery of the possibility of drones monitoring them in their homes. However, Gilbert said he and the ACLU believe drones should be strictly regulated to protect Virginians’ privacy and civil rights.

“Delegate Gilbert is right to be concerned about the possibility that, without new laws, this new and increasingly inexpensive technology will be used in a manner that will violate the fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and will have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of Virginians to assemble peaceably and speak freely,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU. Gilbert and the ACLU usually are on opposite sides of issues. In the last legislative session, for example, the ACLU vigorously opposed Gilbert’s bill allowing private adoption agencies to deny placements that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, including opposition to homosexuality

Gastanaga said the ACLU and Gilbert will form a coalition “that will bring together diverse voices” on the drone issue.

Gilbert said his bill would require police to get a warrant before using drones.It also would impose public monitoring and accountability standards and require the destruction of any pictures acquired by drones unless they are part of an authorized investigation.

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