Three states pursue protections from warrantless searches

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/8/2014

State lawmakers in multiple states are pursuing changes to improve privacy protections for people by restricting police collection of cellphone data.

An Indiana bill would prohibit police from gathering data from cellphones without a warrant.

Privacy advocates say they are concerned about new technology that allows law enforcement to acquire cellphone data without permission.

According to a USA Today investigation, the federal government and at least 25 local and state police departments around the country, including the Indiana State Police, have acquired “Stingray” technology. The equipment allows law enforcement to track the movements of anyone nearby with a cellphone. The numbers of people’s incoming and outgoing calls and text messages are also captured.

Indiana state lawmakers say they understand that the technology is useful for fighting crime and terrorism, but changes need to be made to state law to protect against abuses.

Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, introduced a bill, SB64, that would require a search warrant to extract data from cellphones unless police have probable cause to believe the device was used in a crime.

A related bill in the Hoosier State would also prohibit warrantless searches of electronic communication or user data.

Sponsored by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, HB1009 would put limits on the use of tracking devices, surveillance cameras and drones.

“Because technology has moved so much faster than the law, we need to define new lines of Fourth Amendment protections,” Koch said in a news release. “My goal is to balance legitimate law enforcement interests with generally accepted expectations of privacy.”

The Indiana bills await consideration in committee.

Similar efforts are underway in New Hampshire and Virginia.

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