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posted: 2/15/2014 8:06 AM

Indiana bills seek to shelter digital privacy

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Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Police would have to get a search warrant before they could take data off of cellphones or computer tablets or use aerial drones under bills that are still breathing in the Indiana General Assembly.

Some legislation simply requires a court warrant. One bill that would have made electronic eavesdropping without a court warrant a felony died in a Senate committee.

Concerns about government surveillance have increased since National Security Agency analyst Eric Snowden revealed that a program in which that agency sweeps up information about millions of Americans' phone calls, including the number called from, the number called and the duration of the call.

"I think with the revelations from Eric Snowden, what NSA regulates ... I think there is much greater focus on the citizens' privacy than probably any time in recent history," said Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood.

Some Indiana lawmakers are also concerned about the government using drones.

"I remember a conversation about drones a few years ago, that it would be a very long time before we had to worry about these things to come. And it didn't take very many years," Waltz said.

Drones are mentioned in a bill sponsored by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, which covers a wide range of digital uses, ranging from passwords and police use of GPS to police drones.

"I tried to pick on as many different areas as I could," while avoiding "unintended consequences," Koch said.

He said his bill had support from law enforcement agencies. An Indiana State Police spokesman said the agency doesn't comment on pending legislation, and the director of the Indiana Sheriffs Association didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Koch said he doesn't know if any police agencies in Indiana use drones, but he wants rules in place when they do.

Koch's bill, which asks for a summer study committee, has been passed by the House and sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Waltz's bill, which moved the other direction -- from the House to a Senate committee -- would require police officers to have a search warrant or probable cause to extract data from cellphones to prove a motorist was illegally texting while driving.

Waltz said two police agencies in Indiana use devices that detract such information, but he declined to identify those agencies. His main concern, he said, is with police intercepting cell calls without a court order.

Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, authored a bill that would have made it a felony to search or seize any "electronic communication" without a warrant. His bill died in a Senate committee.

Delph believes the issue goes back all the way to the passage of the Patriot Act after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"The idea was to go after the bad guys. Now it seems we're after the bad guys and the good guys. We're going after every guy," he said.

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