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Rick Scott Will Sign Freedom from Big Brother in the Sky

April 17, 2013 - 6:00pm

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he will sign a bill that curtails the use of police drones.

The Florida House and Senate have both unanimously approved the legislation.

It prohibits police from using drones for routine surveillance, but there are some exceptions.

Police could use drones to investigate national emergencies, survey forest fires, or prevent threats to a person or property, as long as they get a search warrant.

Bill sponsor Rep. Ritch Workman says he wants to make sure rapidly evolving technology is not used to violate peoples privacy rights.

He compares the legislation to phone tapping laws passed 40 years ago.

Drones are a new technology, much like phone tapping was way back then, and we dont want that to enable police forces, even with the right intentions, to spy on your neighbor or spy on you in your back yard," said the Melbourne Republican. "You cant go searching neighborhoods where you think there might be a crime without suspicion and looking in peoples windows. Thats not the America we live in.

We want to make sure that we have drones available, theyre not sitting on a shelf when a young person has been kidnapped or when theres a national emergency or a forest fire; we want to make sure they can put them in the air. But the bill protects against using a tragedy like that as an excuse to spy on your neighbor. So we want to make sure theres a nice wide, but well-controlled window in which they can be used.

The technology of advanced drones used by the military allows soldiers to track objects from 65 miles away.

Workman says Florida is the first state in the nation to create a law restricting the use of police drones. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, sponsored the companion bill.

Tallahassee freelancer journalist Dave Heller provided the content for this story.

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