Sheriff: State Privacy Laws 'Have Not Kept Pace' With Technology

Jan 23, 2019

Lawmakers and law enforcement are discussing how much personal information is protected from devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Credit Elaine Thompson / AP

With new technology like smart devices and facial recognition, lawmakers are weighing ways to balance privacy rights with law enforcement investigations.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Wednesday workshopped how to balance protecting an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, while not hindering law enforcement’s investigative power. 

With new technology like facial recognition and smart phones, privacy protections are no longer black and white.

A key topic lawmakers discussed is in-home devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Assistant Public Defender Victor Holder says the current legal landscape has not kept up.

“They’re finding the third party doctrine may be an outdated doctrine, given that in order to use the technology you almost have to consent to everything," said Holder. "To use the cell phone, you give the cell phone provider your location. To use these in-home devices, you’re aware that they may be recording you for marketing purposes.” 

The committee's chairman, Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa), thinks it is important to bring together various stakeholders.

“Often times if we’ll bring good actors together across different settings, even where they may be adversarial in their daily encounters, we can get to good public policy," said Grant. "We can identify good actors, we can identify people who can find the common ground to suggest that innovation the Fourth Amendment are not antithetical but are challenging.”

Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Sheriff, worries state law "has not kept pace" with technological advancements. Cell phone data is considered priveledged under current law, but Gualtieri suggested maybe it should not be.

The committee is poised to consider whether law enforcement can use drones for surveillance, and Grant expects a number of other privacy issues to come up.