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Privacy Bills Move Forward In Several States

It was a good week for privacy advocates as a Florida bill strengthening limits on drone surveillance passed the state House and went to the governor’s desk, and several other privacy bills moved forward.

The Florida drone bill would expand the current limits on drones by banning any person, state agency, or political subdivision from using unmanned aircraft equipped with imaging devices “to record an image of privately owned or occupied real property or of the owner, tenant, or occupant of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image in violation of such person’s reasonable expectation of privacy without his or her written consent.”

The Florida House unanimously passed the SB 766 117-0. The Senate approved the measure 37-2 last week. The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for his signature.

The Illinois House passed a bill that would put strict limitations on the use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) by law enforcement in the state, and place significant roadblocks in the way of a federal program using states to help track the location of millions of everyday people through pictures of their license plates. HB3289 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Late last week, an Oregon bill that would prohibit law enforcement from obtaining information from electronic devices without a warrant in most cases unanimously passed the Senate. SB641 would not only limit the actions of state and local law enforcement in Oregon, it would also end one practical effect of federal, warrantless spying. By making any information “obtained” in violation of the law inadmissible in court, it would stop state and local law enforcement from using such information shared with them by federal agencies like the NSA. The legislation now moves on to the House.

A Texas bill to stop cell phone tracking without a warrant in most cases moved ahead in Texas, passing out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.  Like the Oregon bill, HB2263 would also put a dent in the federal surveillance state. By requiring a warrant, the legislation would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from “obtaining” warrantless data shared with them by federal agencies like the NSA.

Legislators in New York have introduced a bill to end the unrestricted use of “stingrays” for cell phone surveillance. S04910 would ban law enforcement from using FBI-funded cell site simulators, known as stingrays, to intercept all communications in an area without a judicial order.

Protecting privacy depends on reining in the growing police state in America. Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed a bill into law last Friday that will do just that. House Bill 330 bans state or local law enforcement from receiving significant classes of military equipment from the Pentagon’s “1033 Program.”

A Vermont bill dealing with police militarization doesn’t go as far, but takes a small first step by forcing police procurement of military hardware into the open. H8 would require law enforcement agencies to notify local legislative bodies in their jurisdictions before obtaining military gear from the feds.

Each of these bills strengthens privacy and chips away at the federal surveillance state. Grassroots efforts are vital to keeping these bills moving, and getting others introduced across the country.

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