The ordinance is aimed at protecting the public's right to privacy from existing and emerging technologies, such as drones, license plate readers, cellphone trackers or things that haven't yet been realized outside of science fiction.The new rules require that agencies put in place public policies regarding the use of any surveillance technology before it is acquired or activated, and issue annual reports on how the technologies have been used and what they discovered.

Within months, the issue struck close to home when the public learned that the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office quietly got a $500,000 grant to purchase a "Stingray" cellphone tracking device, an effort that was disbanded when the county -- at Simitian's behest -- demanded to know more about how the technology works.


Electronic privacy advocates say what is different about Santa Clara County's approach to new technology is the breadth of the policy.

"But that lack of specificity is precisely what worries county prosecutors and Sheriff Laurie Smith.

She added that such a law might discourage other agencies from approaching Santa Clara County in joint operations, because of increased reporting requirements.

That's something that Supervisor Mike Wasserman said was critical in gaining his vote.

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