In the Grand Forks Herald today are two letters to the editor poo-pooing state legislation to require that law enforcement obtain a warrant before using a UAV, or “drone,” in a criminal investigation. One is from Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost, and the other is from UND Center for Innovation CEO Bruce Gjovig.
A common theme in both letters is the idea that the legislation in question, HB1373 introduced by Rep. Rick Becker, will endanger a bid by the University of North Dakota to become a research center for the use of UAV’s. But that argument was dealt a serious blow by Congressman Kevin Cramer who says that such fears are overblown.
“I completely understand and have no concern about local jurisdictions like the state of North Dakota taking preemptive action to protect their citizens from possible invasions of privacy,” he told Great Plains News. “One of the biggest issues…are the personal privacy issues. The concerns – understandable concerns – private citizens have about maintaining their privacy when there’s this type of high-tech flying aircraft that have a tremendous capacity for covert operations.”
“How you apply the science and the benefits of unmanned aerial vehicles not just for military or law enforcement use but for other commercial uses and apply that in a way that also appreciates and maintains personal privacy is really a public policy priority right now,” he said.
It’s worth remembering that Rep. Cramer is on a House subcommittee that is reviewing drone safety and privacy issues. He is also backing UND’s bid to become a leader in UAV research. But it’s also clear that Cramer is tempering the benefits drones may provide law enforcement and commerce with the concerns over privacy.
Which is more than we can say for some law enforcement and public policy leaders in the state.