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New privacy protections against unwarranted drone use become law

030514 js 0078SPRINGFIELD — Legislation proposed by State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) to put additional limits on the use of drones by law enforcement became law today. The measure expands on the privacy protections of the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, which Biss sponsored last year.

"It's important we continue to develop and refine our regulations on these types of technologies as they advance," Biss said. "This new law expands on our approach of balancing the basic right to privacy with the potential to use technological advances to improve public safety."

Last year's drone law, which was one of the first of its kind, prohibits police from using an unmanned aerial vehicle without a search warrant except in certain clearly defined emergency situations. The new law, which was introduced as Senate Bill 2937, clarifies that in the absence of a warrant, individuals and businesses cannot be obligated to give information collected by privately owned drones over to the authorities. Drones are best known for their military capabilities, but law enforcement agencies, corporations and private individuals have begun purchasing smaller, unarmed versions for a variety of purposes.

The law signed today allows law enforcement to acquire information from a privately owned drone without a warrant if necessary to prevent a terrorist attack, imminent harm to a person or the escape of a suspect; to collect images of a crime scene or traffic accident scene or to locate a missing person. It also states that law enforcement agencies may use their own drones to survey damage and help coordinate relief efforts in a natural disaster or public health emergency.

Senator Daniel Biss

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9th Senate District

Years served: 2011 - 2012 (House); 2013 - 2018 (Senate)

Committee assignments: Education; Environment and Conservation; Executive Appointments; Human Services; Labor (Chairperson); Revenue.

Biography: Full-time legislator; former University of Chicago math professor; doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and undergraduate degree from Harvard University. Served one term in the House before his election to the Senate. Resides in Evanston with his wife, Karin, and their children, Elliot and Theodore. Co-chair of a bipartisan pensions working group in the House and chair of the Digital Divide Elimination Advisory Committee.