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Indiana House votes to curtail electronic surveillance by police

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana House voted 85-11 Monday to curtail the use of electronic surveillance or data-collecting by police unless under a search warrant or during an emergency such as a terrorist attack.

“This bill concerns balancing privacy and security in the digital age,” said Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford.

He said the founders couldn’t have dreamed of circumstances where an unmanned drone could replace a police stakeout or data from cell phones could be used to build a criminal case against someone.

Privacy concerns have grown nationally since the National Security Agency’s controversial warrantless program collecting cell phone data became known.

And the Indianapolis Star reported that the Indiana State Police bought a “Stingray” – a device that can track movements of nearby cell phone users and record numbers from calls or text messages.

Sometimes law enforcement gets an overall court order to collect the data and then mine for patterns that might show a crime.

But Koch’s bill requires obtaining a specific search warrant showing belief that a crime has occurred.

House Bill 1009 also would further study the issue in an interim committee.

“This bill is really the beginning,” he said. “As technology continues to evolve faster than the law new issues will emerge.”

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said it is interesting when legislation brings people from different political spectrums together.

“Here the Tea Party world meets up and shakes hands with the ACLU,” he said.

Pierce said the bill attempts to limit this type of data-mining so that it adheres more closely to the Constitution’s protections.

“The state should not be attempting to get into your private business unless they have some cause to believe that you are engaging gin criminal activity,” he said.

If so, a search warrant can be sought. Or in case of urgent or emergency situations police can still act.

But several other Democrats think the bill goes too far.

“We’re disarming law enforcement in advance,” said Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis. “No one has claimed our cops are over the top or courts or incapable of carrying out the law on privacy or search warrants.

“We’re fighting a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Koch closed by noting the Indiana State Police support the bill.

“They wouldn’t do so if it unduly tied their hands,” he said.

All area House members supported the legislation.