A bill filed last month with the California Senate for the 2017 legislative session would prohibit the acquisition of new surveillance technology without local government approval, as well as require all law enforcement agencies to submit a comprehensive Surveillance Use Policy.

SB 21, filed by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, extends existing privacy standards for automatic license plate readers and cell-intercept devices to all surveillance technology used by law enforcement agencies, according to Hill. The policy is favored by privacy rights advocates who desire stronger checks and balances on police use of surveillance technology.

Before acquiring and using new surveillance technology, police would have to “submit to its governing body at a properly noticed public meeting on the regular, nonconsent calendar, a Surveillance Use Policy which shall be in writing and made publicly available prior to the public hearing.”

The Surveillance Use Policy must include what types of technology would be used, what data would be collected, who would have access to the data, how long the data would be stored, and what the agency will do to maintain privacy and security.

“SB 21 ensures that the same privacy protocols and standards that currently apply to license plate readers and cellphone intercept devices apply to all other surveillance technology, including those developed in the future,” Hill said.

The bill may be in reaction to the increasing use of surveillance technology across the country, and growing backlash from privacy rights groups. Additionally, Hill may be looking to avoid the scandal experienced by the Baltimore Police Department when its secret aerial surveillance program was uncovered in 2016.

The California Legislature hasn’t set a date to vote on SB 21.

Read More About
Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs