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Special Report: 3 States Move Bills to Take on Mass Surveillance

Last week, bills to stop warrantless spying by stingray devices passed important first steps in two states.

Stingrays, or cell site simulators, essentially spoof cell phone towers, tricking any device within range into connecting to the stingray instead of the tower. Primarily funded by federal grants, law enforcement has been using these devices for warrantless spying all over the country.

Last Wednesday, the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB2343.

The bill would require law enforcement to get a warrant before using a stingray. Information obtained without a warrant would be inadmissible in any judicial proceeding.  The vote was 11-0.

On Thursday in Missouri, a similar bill – SB811 – was passed by Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence committee.

Both bills will now move to the full senate in each state.

And also last week in California, the Assembly Committee on Public Safety passed AB1820 by a vote 7-0. The bill would ban surveillance by drones without a warrant.

All three bills also take on a narrow, but important part of the federal surveillance state. Through information sharing agreements, surveillance data collected by state and local law enforcement are sent upstream to federal agencies, and vice versa.  By requiring a warrant, these bills would throw a wrench in a system that’s been working too well for too long.