That pesky Constitution. It really is stirring up some controversy these days and slipping back into legislation across the states.
I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. We all have. “Cellphone data spying. It’s not just the NSA” and “DC, Maryland and Virginia cops spying on cell phone data” or more recently “Reports: NSA and GCHQ are spying on virtual worlds, gathering data on gamers“. Private entities are speaking out against the measures, too. They’re everywhere. Literally. Every day it seems we wake to another breaking story about privacy infringements and agency tracking tactics with only stagnant blank stares from legislators on the federal level. Frustration ensues but nothing happens.
So I present to you HB699 authored by State Representative John Pezold (R-Columbus). HB699 essentially details “relating to searches with warrants, so as to narrow the circumstances of when location information for electronic devices may be disclosed without a search warrant; to provide for definitions; to provide for exceptions; to provide for a civil penalty and enforcement; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes”. You can read the full text of the bill here, but HB 699 essentially tightens the reins on the out-of control location spying and tracking by law enforcement without a warrant. My favorite part of the bill is the part where it provides punishment parameters for the government entities that violate the statute and allows for suppression of such evidence in court. (I will agree that there is no ‘price’ for our freedoms being compromised but this bill certainly does more to protect our liberties than current practices by law enforcement agencies.)
There is a slight problem, though. As of pre-filing on November 25th, it was a lonely Mr. Pezold and Rep. Scot Turner (R-21) as official signers on the bill. I find it interesting that a bill like HB41, dealing with water and sewer fees, has more signers than one that strengthens our Constitutional rights and it’s perplexing to me that 1) there aren’t more bills to protect our 4th amendment rights, and 2) that fellow legislators aren’t calling Representative Pezold to help with the initiative. Personally, I want to know where every elected official stands on this, through the House and Senate and up to the Governor. And you should want to know, too. If they don’t support it…primary. It’s time to stop foregoing liberties because “everyone else” is doing it. The justification for “security” that is most often used in these instances is not applicable. A warrant suffices- and they’re not that hard to get, but at least it’s through a process. HB 699 will cease the circumvention of our 4th amendment rights when it comes to location tracking on electronic devices.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already said the use of such devices does constitute a search. Montana has similar legislation too HB699 and other states have worked to push electronic privacy initiatives, but we’re a long way from where we should be. It’s time for Georgia to step up. Call your legislators. Tell your friends to call their legislators. It matters. It’s not often that we get good bills anymore and HB699 needs support. This bill is a #McWin.