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Gazette Premium Content Ind. bill would restrict electronic surveillance

Associated Press Updated: January 27, 2014 at 2:40 pm

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Individual privacy and public safety faced off Monday at an Indiana legislative hearing, as a committee gave its support to an effort aimed at protecting residents from invasion by surveillance drones, GPS trackers and unwarranted cellphone searches.

Lawmakers said privacy rights have become a public concern following revelations that the National Security Agency had been routinely monitoring U.S. citizens' phone records and Internet use.

The House Committee on Courts and Criminal Procedure voted 6-1 to advance the bill to the full House.

Rep. Eric Koch (cook) of Bedford said the measure generally would require police to obtain search warrants or otherwise justify electronic surveillance methods, including unmanned aircraft.

Some of the harshest criticism came for police use of GPS devices to track vehicles. Critics said police already can track vehicles simply by following them, but others saw the use of GPS as ripe for abuse.

"You could get to the point where you're just tracking everyone's car just for the fun of it," Koch said.

But Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, questioned the need for regulation if it simply codified current police procedure, which limits GPS use to investigations, pressing need like hostage situations or terrorism.

"If it's already going on currently, why do we need to put it in the bill?" Mahan said.

Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon said putting the guidelines into law might save investigators lengthy court fights over evidence.

The proposal also would restrict police officers' extraction of personal data from cellphones and the placement of cameras or other electronic surveillance equipment on private property without the owner's consent — in cases where people want their homes monitored following burglaries or other crimes.

Critics said the cell phone restriction could complicate enforcement of Indiana's law against texting while driving, while others said the provision was meant to prevent fishing expeditions.

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