California, Illinois approve new rules on cellphone spying

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/24/2014

State lawmakers throughout the country have spent time this year addressing efforts to limit, or prohibit, cellphone eavesdropping by law enforcement. California and Illinois are the two most recent states to take action.

In Illinois, one new law limits the circumstances that law enforcement can use information collected from cellphones.

SB2808 allows law enforcement to capture cellphone data only after obtaining a court order based on probable cause of a crime. It took effect immediately.

A new law in California is intended to thwart wayward federal surveillance programs. Previously SB828, the new rule takes effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law prohibiting state agencies, officials and corporations that provide services to the state from supporting or assisting the federal government to collect electronic data or metadata on citizens without a warrant.

Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said new rules are needed to prevent taxpayers’ own money from being used to violate their rights.

“The National Security Agency’s massive and indiscriminate collecting of phone data on all Americans, including more than 38 million Californians, is a threat to our liberty and freedom,” Lieu said in a statement.

State lawmakers throughout the country have spent much of the year pushing for changes that would require search warrants for cellphone data.

Indiana, Maine, Montana, Tennessee and Utah already impose rules on the use of “Stingray” and “Kingfish” technology. The equipment mimics cellphone towers and allows law enforcement to track the movements of anyone with a cellphone nearby. The numbers of people’s incoming and outgoing calls and text messages are also captured.

Elsewhere, a Minnesota law to help protect residents from warrantless cellphone searches took effect Oct. 1. In August, Missouri voters changed the state’s Constitution to provide protections from warrantless search and seizure by law enforcement.

Despite the actions already taken, some experts question whether the government’s data collection can be curbed by state actions. They cite the supremacy clause, which establishes the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes and U.S. treaties as “the supreme law of the land.”

“We can only hope the feds halt this illegal and unconstitutional practice nationally,” Lieu stated.

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