Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 9, 2014

Privacy

Bills would restrict police monitoring of Md. citizens

Maryland legislators have an opportunity to make sure the privacy rights of innocent citizens are not violated. A package of four bills is aimed at limiting law enforcement officials’ ability to electronically monitor citizens.

Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, a Montgomery County Democrat, is sponsoring a cellphone tracking bill that would require police to obtain a warrant before reading electronic communication and tracking a cellphone. “Your cellphone can tell the government where you are at any moment,” he said during testimony on the bill.

Another legislative piece seeks to limit use of drones by police. Another would place parameters on how long law enforcement officials can keep records based on license plate readers.

According to Capital News Service, some law enforcement officials who oppose the bill on cellphone tracking testified that the measure would hinder their ability to do their jobs. “The only person that this bill serves are criminals,” said Wesley Adams, chief of the homicide division for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney.

Del. Samuel Rosenberg, a Baltimore City Democrat who sponsored the bill on drones, said while intrusive monitoring by law enforcement is not a widespread problem, he thinks protective legislation should be in place to ensure citizens’ privacy rights amidst emerging technology.  

Who doesn’t want to see police capture the bad guys? But that can be accomplished on sound legal grounds if police are required to obtain a warrant before invading someone’s privacy.

Americans are highly skeptical of spying — especially by the National Security Administration. License plate scanners, cellphone tracking and data probes have become all too common. It’s time to scrutinize all of this — and rein-in police and government agencies that are all too quick to use tactics that have not been approved by our courts.

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