State governments taking the ‘sting’ out of surveillance

State governments are laying down an example for Congress to follow when it comes to limiting electronic surveillance.

As Congress continues to debate the future of the National Security Agency’s telephone metadata collection program, Washington state has banned the warrant-less use of similar technology that allows law enforcement to track cell phones. Police using so-called “stingrays,” also known as simulated cell towers, now have to get approval from a judge, and they will have to use the devices to seek specific individuals rather than sweeping all calls in a certain area.

“The warrant-less, illegal collection of data, not only by the federal government but by our state agencies; we understand that it violates the constitution,” said state Rep. David Taylor, R-Yakima, who sponsored the bill. “It’s a civil liberties issue, a civil rights issue; I think it’s an issue that’s ripe for everybody.”

The bill got broad bipartisan support as it sailed through the Washington Legislature and was signed earlier this month by Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat.

Washington becomes the first state to place such limitations on the use of stingrays. A few states are considering similar bills and one other, Virginia, has already approved one.

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