TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (March 17, 2015) –  A wide-ranging privacy bill that would prohibit collection of electronic data without a warrant and block an NSA program passed a state House committee last week.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers) introduced H.0571 on Feb. 3. The legislation would prohibit collection of electronic data without a warrant and make any warrantless data obtained by a state agency inadmissible in court.  This would effectively block what NSA former Chief Technical Director William Binney called the country’s “greatest threat since the Civil War.”

An amended version of the bill passed a House Criminal Justice subcommittee 9-3 on March 13.

H0571 prohibits warrantless collection of electronic data from phones and other portable electronic devices. The bill bans searches of electronic devices even “incident to a lawful arrest.”

Evidence obtained in violation of this section is not admissible in a criminal, civil, administrative, or other proceeding except as proof of a violation of this section.

This includes evidence “obtained” through information sharing by federal agencies. This would effectively stop one practical effect of NSA spying in Florida.

Reuters revealed the extent of such NSA data sharing with state and local law enforcement in an August 2013 article. According to documents obtained by the news agency, the NSA passes information to police through a formerly secret DEA unit known Special Operations Divisions and the cases “rarely involve national security issues.” Almost all of the information involves regular criminal investigations, not terror-related investigations.

In other words, not only does the NSA collect and store this data, using it to build profiles, the agency encourages state and local law enforcement to violate the Fourth Amendment by making use of this information in their day-to-day investigations.

This is “the most threatening situation to our constitutional republic since the Civil War,” Binney said.

The legislation originally included provisions to limit the use of automatic license plate readers, but that section was amended out of the bill. Law enforcement lobby opposition reportedly led to stripping sections that would have prohibited the use of automated license plate readers without a warrant in most cases.

Along with the prohibitions on warrantless data collection, H.0571 also bans the use of wall-penetrating radar without a warrant, sets up strict criteria to protect students’ personal data and establishes comprehensive reporting requirements for agencies dealing with electronic data, including law enforcement.

The bill is now “. “Practically speaking, that means the speaker of the House must review the committee substitute and assign it to a committee for further consideration.

Mike Maharrey

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