In the 21st Century, law enforcement officials have access to technology and many gadgets that their predecessors lacked. Which is probably a good thing considering that in the era of information technology (IT), there are number of new crimes to be policed, such as cyber-bullying and identity theft. In just a few short years advances in surveillance techniques have come a long way, yet there are many who have concerns about law enforcement’s move into the future.
Fearing a world where police have the power to snoop on peoples’ Facebook page, or use facial recognition software to find suspects with the click of a mouse, privacy advocates have been on the attack asking for transparency. California Senate Bill 21, introduced by State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would compel any local law enforcement agency using surveillance technology to disclose plans on how the technology is used and what police are looking for, The Los Angeles Times reports. Naturally, local law enforcement officials fear that if passed, SB 21 would be impractical, serving only to slow the progress of criminal investigations. Senator Hill would like to see the legislation work “to create transparency and a check and balance.”
“There has to be standards to create limitations on the use and potential abuse of this technology, because it can be so intrusive on our lives and can very easily cross the line and violate our civil rights.”
If passed, Senate Bill 21 would require law enforcement agencies to:
- Identify all of their types of surveillance technology.
- Indicate the authorized reasons for use.
- Reveal the types of data collected.
- Disclose which employees who can use them, and their training.
Disclosing such information could have the unintended effect of showing law enforcement’s hand to criminals, points out Cory Salzillo, legislative director with the California State Sheriffs’ Association. Salzillo says that the bill could give “criminals a road map about how we surveil them.” The organization has not taken a position on Senate Bill 21.
Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based in Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court, including white-collar crimes. You can reach us at 714-997-4400 or contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online.