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Senate committee clears bill limiting drones

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State Sen. Dorothy Hukill’s plan to keep an eye on spies in the sky cleared its first committee stop Tuesday. SB 766 would protect individuals and their private property from being photographed or video taped through the use of a drone.

At least 13 states already have enacted laws addressing drones, or what privacy advocates have called “flying robots with cameras,” and at least another 10 are considering legislation this year.

“With the sky the limit as drone technology advances we want to make sure that protections are in place to prevent privacy violations,” said Hukill.

Under the proposal a person is presumed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy on his or her privately owned or occupied property if not observable by persons located at ground level regardless of whether the person can be observed from the air.

State newspapers expressed a concern that the proposal would undermine Florida principles and federal case law of the rights of citizens to take a picture in public and the public right to receive newsworthy information.

Dean Ridings of the Florida Press Association endorsed privacy rights but told the committee there is the competing “interest of the public right to know” and the “journalist’s right to collect information.”

He pointed to a North Carolina drone law passed last summer that includes a news exemption and suggested it does not undermine “long held principles in Florida and federal case law” of the public’s right to receive newsworthy information.

Ridings said he would like to work with Hukill’s staff on the bill as it moves forward. The Community Affairs Committee approved the proposal on a unanimous vote.

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