New law restricts police cell phone surveillance

The signing of the Illinois Citizen Privacy Protection Act limits how far police and other government agencies in Illinois can go in using cellphone technology to track citizens.

The new law requires a court order based on probable cause before any government agency can use a cell site simulator, known commonly as Stingray, to track people down using cell phone GPS technology.

And it can only be used to target someone who “has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.”

Matthew Topic, an attorney at Loevy & Loevy who currently is involved with a high-profile privacy case involving the Chicago Police Department, said the law is a welcomed new protection for the state’s residents.

“I think it’s a very positive step in the right direction,” he said. “I still have a lot of concerns that the way that this technology works makes it very difficult to use it in any way that would comply with the 4th Amendment.”

With the law, Illinois joins several other states who have outlawed the use of cell site simulators except as approved as part of a criminal investigation.

Topic said he hopes the law will provide a blueprint for public officials to gain a better understanding regarding the limits of their powers over citizens. Topic said he’s found that many law enforcement officials just don’t know the details of privacy rules.

“In terms of any statutes or regulations, I don’t think there was anything completely specific in the past, so this will definitely help to clarify a lot of issues,” he said.

Topic said the law is welcomed, but more is needed when it comes to protecting the privacy of Illinois citizen.

“Anything that helps to move us in the right direction is a good thing,” he said. “The question now is: does it really go far enough or (are) there more protections that are needed or are there more protections that are already guaranteed by the constitution?”

He said the issues of privacy and technology should be getting more public attention, especially by public officials.

“I continue to be concerned about potential unauthorized use and the lack of thorough protocols to make sure that the technology doesn’t get abused,” he said.

–Illinois News Network

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