State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has just introduced a bill that would prohibit drones from trespassing on private property and invading Californians’ privacy.
California law already prohibits someone from entering someone’s private property — their home or backyard, for example — without their permission, and prohibits them from photographing or recording conversations. Senate Bill 142 clarifies that the rules pertaining to trespassing and the physical invasion of privacy also apply to entry by remotely operated aerial vehicles known as drones.
“Drones have a lot of potentially useful and extremely innovative uses. But invading our privacy and property without permission shouldn’t be among them. When we’re in our backyards, with our families, we have an expectation that we have a right to privacy,” Jackson said. “This bill would extend these long-established definitions of trespassing and privacy, and bring them into the 21st century, by applying them also to drones.”
SB 142 would not impact of the use of drones in public spaces or in the navigable airspace approximately 400 feet above ground, which is subject to federal regulation.
Jackson’s bill was introduced days after a drone was flown onto the White House lawn. Following the incident, President Barack Obama has called for more regulation of drone use.
Often, drones are equipped with video cameras and sound-recording equipment. As they become more widespread, the potential for colliding with established privacy rights increases.
“This bill is about anticipating and preventing problems before they occur,” Jackson said. “Drones are an emerging and exciting technology. But because they can easily travel over fences and other structures, we need to take extra precautions to ensure they don’t compromise our privacy and blur long-standing boundaries between public and private space.”
Jackson is chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees legislation on privacy issues. She represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.
— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.