Illinois has just passed a law that limits the amount of wiretapping their police force can use when they are doing surveillance on people’s cell phones. The technology that they have been using casts a wide net over their population, and there is reason to believe that they have been going way too far with their power. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have also weighed in on the new law and praised it, even though they characterized it as modest at best.
There has been a growing debate in American ever since Edward Snowden released classified documents that show just how much surveillance power the government intelligence community has over Americans when it comes to cell phones and other types of data. The Illinois law, which was signed by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, scales back the amount of power that police have for surveillance of cell phones, but it does not eliminate their power to use the technology altogether, as reported by the Huron Daily Tribune.
— Umami (@MediaExposedDay) July 16, 2016
This is something that also co-aligns with a lawsuit against the police force in the city of Chicago. The gathering of this data via surveillance on people’s cell phones is quite extensive at this point, and there is technology Illinois police have been able to use that casts a wide net and even targets people who are not even part of the police investigation.
One might argue that surveillance of this type with any Illinois police department, whether be in a city like Chicago or with the Illinois State Police, is not only illegal but very immoral. Just consider what a warrant may cover if issued for a particular person with a cell phone.
The technology that Illinois police had been using casts a wide net because it is unable to target a single cell phone, but rather collects data from everyone that is using the infrastructure, or cell tower, that the targeted surveillance is on.
So when the Illinois police and Chicago police decide they are going to gather data via surveillance on a particular target, they cannot single that person out. They have to use technology that gathers the data of everyone who is on that network, which could be anywhere between hundreds and thousands of people. That is, of course, a clear violation of privacy laws, which are protected on the federal level.
The new law signed into effect in Illinois curbs these practices but still allows for surveillance via cell phones. The information of all these hundreds of people can still be collected for purposes of the investigation, but the law requires police to delete the data that is not pertinent to their investigation within 24 hours of receipt.
Even though the law is weak at best, the ACLU has gone as far as to praise Governor Rauner and Illinois for passing the legislation. Khadine Bennett, who is the associate legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, spoke with Huron Daily Tribune via e-mail and issued a comment on the law.
“Cell site simulator technology too powerful to remain unregulated. The federal government has adopted modest guidelines similar to those enacted today. If the restrictions are good enough for the FBI, they should be workable for local law enforcement in Illinois.”
— F_C_J_R (@F_C_J_R) July 20, 2016
For the most part, the Illinois State Police have not taken a stance on the new law. But the Chicago Police Department is under a tighter microscope right now since there is still a pending lawsuit that directly relates to the violation of the new law. Chicago PD has not made any statement on the law as of yet.
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