Massachusetts Wants To Make Surveillance Easier, While Texas Is Making It Harder
from the two-different-states,-two-different-views dept
It appears that Massachusetts and Texas are taking two rather different approaches to allowing surveillance of its citizens. Texas this week signed into law a bill that prohibits accessing emails by the government without a warrant. The bill is pretty simple: it goes beyond what the current federal law, ECPA, allows, in saying that if law enforcement wants to access someone’s emails, they need a warrant (something that many of us think should be required under the 4th Amendment already). Meanwhile, it appears that Massachusetts is going in the other direction, pushing a bill that would make it much easier to wiretap anyone’s phones. Specifically, the bill would do the following:
1) Remove the requirement that an electronic wiretapping warrant be connected with organized crime, or indeed with serious crimes more generally. Potentially, even minor crimes like marijuana possession could become eligible for wiretapping by state authorities.
2) Double the length of an authorized wiretap, from 15 to 30 days.
3) Legalize mass interception of communications at telecommunications switching stations, rather than through individual wiretaps on individual phone numbers.
All of them are deeply concerning, with the last one being potentially unconstitutional. But that first one may have the most immediate direct impact, since it would basically give law enforcement the ability to go after anyone they suspect of almost any offense and hit them with a wiretap. If you think that wouldn’t be abused, you haven’t been paying attention to how law enforcement (especially local law enforcement) has abused all sorts of powers in the past.
The EFF has put together a petition to try to get Massachusetts lawmakers to realize what an incredibly bad idea this would be.