Share story

The Seattle City Council today unanimously approved legislation requiring city departments to get prior approval before purchasing or using any surveillance equipment, including drones and cameras.

Departments would have to spell out how they plan to use the devices and the City Council would hold a public hearing on the proposal before giving its okay.

But the bill included an amendment that exempts the police department if the technology is part of a criminal investigation or approved under a search warrant. Privacy and civil-rights advocates objected that the change had not received public scrutiny and could weaken the bill.

“We have a real concern about that,” said Doug Honig, spokesman for the ACLU of Washington, after the council hearing. “It appears to lower the standards for when surveillance cameras can be used.”