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Reining in some police surveillance powers

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014

* Some hardcore police powers types probably won’t like this, but it seems to make some sense. From a press release…

State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) presented legislation today that would limit the circumstances under which law enforcement may use electronic location surveillance, including GPS tracking information from cell phones, in criminal investigations.

“From your phone to the GPS system built into your car, the devices you use every day can reveal a surprising amount of detailed information most of us believe should stay private,” Biss said. “The legislation I’ve introduced balances legitimate public safety needs with the basic, constitutional right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches.”

Senate Bill 2808 would allow law enforcement to obtain a tracking order — similar to a search warrant — if they can show a judge they have probable cause to believe obtaining current or future location information from an individual’s electronic device is needed to solve a crime or prevent a crime from taking place. In the absence of a tracking order, information collected through electronic surveillance would be inadmissible in court. The legislation contains exceptions for emergencies such as responding to a 911 call or locating a missing person believed to be in danger. It also clarifies that police and prosecutors may still make use of information already available to the public, such as locations posted on social media.

In 2012, cell phone carriers reported to Congress that they had responded to 1.3 million requests from law enforcement agencies for customer information during the previous year.

“The technology is new, but the principle is not: a free society needs to put strict limits on the government’s collection of information about citizens’ private lives,” Biss said.

The bill passed a committee today and was sent to the Senate floor.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


13 Comments
  1. - Walker - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    Good. Should get bi-partisan support.

    Time to ignore the “soft on crime” paranoia of typical campaign staff.


  2. - Mokenavince - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 12:20 pm:

    Bravo ! To bad we can’t repeal the Patriot Act!


  3. - So Il M - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 12:38 pm:

    I agree with Walker, it should have support from both sides.


  4. - Judgment Day - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 12:48 pm:

    To Senator Bliss - Looks Good On You!! Thank you.

    Every so often it’s nice to see smart legislation regarding uses of technology. If you don’t put some restrictions on the use of these ‘tracking orders’, they will likely become commonplace - no matter what you are investigating (say, shoplifting), you will want a tracking order to establish the suspect’s location. It could become a tsunami of requests.

    And then you get the inevitable counter measures, which is not just to turn the phone/tablet off (the GPS remains active), but to actually remove the battery. Or, just as likely, you are going to see folks working to create apps to ’spoof’ the GPS sender technology, giving you the option to on demand ’spoof’ your location. Or other approaches.

    Wait for it….


  5. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 1:14 pm:

    Technology and complacency have nearly eroded the 4th Amendment. We don’t even know how we’re being searched, and often no longer care that these searches are illegal.


  6. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 1:16 pm:

    Good work by Biss.

    More bills like this, please.


  7. - Liandro - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 1:38 pm:

    What 47th Ward said, except that I for one still very much care! I hope Walker is right, and this gets bipartisan support.


  8. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 2:05 pm:

    * Some hardcore police powers types probably won’t like this, but it seems to make some sense.”

    There was no opposition to the bill. In fact the Cook County States Attorneys Office killed it last year and supported it this year.


  9. - Boog - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 2:53 pm:

    -a free society needs to put strict limits on the government’s collection of information about citizens’ private lives-

    Absolutely…to bad he doesn’t feel the same about guns and gun owners…


  10. - Skirmisher - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 6:37 pm:

    I am not prone to praise Illinois Democrats (Republicans either) but I applaud Senator Bliss. It is the nature of government and the police to limit the boundaries of freedom as much as they possibly can because it makes their jobs easier. it is refreshing these days to see a legislator, especially a Democrat legislator, come out strongly for the protection of Constitutional limits on the government’s powers.


  11. - Just Me - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 7:59 pm:

    It looks perfectly reasonable, which means the General Assembly will have to amend it several times.


  12. - x ace - Wednesday, Feb 19, 14 @ 9:51 pm:

    Believe it is not only reasonable but is in accord with and appears to be required by recent federal court decisions. Pass it.


  13. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 20, 14 @ 8:11 am:

    lets let the state troopers interpet the law for us again ,problem solved.


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