All Eyes on Alameda County
In response to an ACLU of Northern California Public Records Act request, the California Emergency Management Agency, the state entity that administers federal homeland security grant funds, recently confirmed that the Alameda County Sheriff's Office is the only agency in the entire state of California to have applied for or obtained grant funding from Cal-EMA for a drone.
While this doesn't mean that Alameda County is the only law enforcement entity in California that has considered a drone - Muck Rock and the Electronic Frontier Foundation discovered that the San Diego County Sheriff considered but did not ultimately purchase a drone - it does underscore why Alameda County needs to get it right. The Alameda County Sheriff could become the first local law enforcement agency in the state to deploy a drone, and the ways in which it does so, and the degree to which it respects people's privacy, could become precedent-setting as a result.
While the Sheriff wants to put eyes all over the county, we need to turn all eyes to Alameda County and make sure that drones are not used for warrantless mass surveillance.
Linda Lye is a Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.