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Drone Privacy Bill Gets Delayed In Colorado Judiciary Committee

Adam Meek
Flickr - Creative Commons
A DJI Quadcopter drone.

The sponsor of a proposal to put guardrails around the use of drones for non- government purposes asked lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee to delay a vote on the bill Tuesday.

"I would work with members of the committee to make sure it truly protects the privacy of people in the state," said Representative Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park).

The delay came after nearly two hours of testimony that focused on emerging technologies and a person's reasonable expectation of privacy.

As originally written, House Bill 1115 [.pdf] would have prohibited using a drone to track another person in a public place, with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm. It also restricted an individual from using drones to take pictures and observe someone who has a reasonable expectation of privacy. But Lawrence offered a last minute amendment to change the wording on the bill to broaden it out to any type of artificial, mechanical or electronic device.

Representative Daniel Kagan (D-Denver), chair of the judiciary committee, called it a terrible, sweeping measure. His concerns are that the bill is "broadly written."

"If I take a photograph of a person in circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy I am now a criminal," said Kagan. "That strikes me as an extraordinarily dangerous law to pass; to criminalize photography."

Others thought that the bill would apply to all cameras including from cell phones. Meanwhile representatives from the drone industry said they didn't want to narrow the language.

"Technology should be agnostic," said Allen Bishop the president of Reference Technologies in Lafayette, a manufacturer of drones. "The delivery mechanism should be agnostic. If you're going to couple the two together that's where industry could take an enormous hit."

Lawmakers did not specify when they would vote on the bill. A Democratic measure to restrict how law enforcement officers use drones failed in its first committee in the Senate. Meanwhile Federal Aviation Administration recently released draft rules to govern drones

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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