While Massachusetts lawmakers will soon vote on S 796/H 1684, "An act updating privacy protections for personal electronic information,” they, along with MA Attorney General Martha Coakley, are also considering S 654, which would expand the state’s wiretapping powers.
There were hearings yesterday on the following bills; descriptions of the bills are from the ACLU:
The Electronic Privacy Act (S 796; H 1684) would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to access personal electronic information--such as details of telephone use, contacts, location, and e-mail and other communication--from telecommunications companies, and would bring accepted long-standing Massachusetts law and practices governing search warrants into the digital age.
The Drone Privacy Act (Sen. Hedlund and Rep. Garry: S.1664; H.1357) aims to regulate the use of aerial surveillance vehicles to ensure that this emerging technology is used responsibly in Massachusetts—without weapons and not for warrantless surveillance of residents.
The Free Speech Act (Sen. Chandler and Rep. Lewis: S.642; H.1457) would prohibit law enforcement from collecting information about individuals' political and religious views, associations or activities, unless it relates directly to a criminal investigation based on reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.
As for the wiretap bill, Coakley’s office responded to a blog post equating the law to recent revelations about NSA surveillance with clarification on the details of the legislation, noting, “Updating the wiretap law is a critical tool to combatting gang violence, gun violence, human trafficking and many other violent crimes that undermine public safety in our communities. And equally important to what it does, is what it does not do. One thing it does not do is alter in any way the many safeguards already put in place under the current wiretap statute to protect against abuse.”
Legislature Overrides Veto of Cell Phone Privacy Bill
The Maine legislature voted 125 to 17 to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of LD 415, "An Act To Require a Warrant To Obtain the Location Information of a Cell Phone or Other Electronic Device." Sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta), LD 415 is the third privacy law to be passed in the legislature this session, reports The Portland Daily Sun.
LePage Inconsistent on Privacy?
Two privacy bills--LD 1377, “An Act To Protect Cellular Telephone Privacy" and LD 1040, "An Act To Prohibit the Placement of Cameras and Electronic Surveillance Equipment on Private Property Without the Written Permission of the Landowner”--recently became law after no action was taken by LePage.
However, he issued vetoes on LD 415, as stated above, and LD 236, "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use,” which the legislature failed to override. This has prompted an ACLU of Maine representative to say, “We're disappointed that the governor supported warrant requirements for some new technologies but not others. We can't just pick and choose when the Constitution applies and when it doesn't. “
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