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Policing Privacy: New Package Of Md. Bills Sets Limits On Crime-Fighting Devices

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)--Technology has changed quickly in the last few decades. And law enforcement has adapted with it, using that technology to combat crime. But now some Maryland lawmakers say it is time to set some limits in order to protect citizens' privacy.

Derek Valcourt has more on a new package of bills designed to control what police can and can't do with technology.

The recent NSA revelations launched a national conversation about government spying and data collection. Now some Maryland lawmakers say it's time to put limits into state law for the first time in 25 years.

Thanks to that cell phone, police can track your location if they need to.

They can even access your email and other electronic data.

License plate readers now scan your car and tell police where you've been.

And soon the newest unmanned flying drone technology may even help police conduct aerial surveillance.

ACLU privacy advocates say it's all too much.

"Technology is good and law enforcement should be able to use it but within constitutional parameters and without invading Marylanders' privacy," said Sara Love, ACLU of Maryland.

The concerns are enough to rally together a small group of Republicans and Democrats-- normally on opposite sides.

"We obviously can't control the NSA, but we can control what we do as a government," said Sen. Jamie Raskin, (D) Montgomery County.

They're now sponsoring four bills they say will set rules that law enforcement in Maryland must follow--like making sure police have warrants before tracking your phone.

"By no means does it sacrifice the ability of law enforcement to do their job and protect the public safety," said Sen. Chris Shank, (R) Washington County.

But law enforcement leaders don't necessarily agree. Take the now common license plate readers that instantly scan thousands of tags looking for stolen vehicles while recording a car's location.

A proposed law would not allow police to store that information for up to a year--as they now do.

Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis says keeping those records for a year assists in investigations.

"The retrospective examination of alibis of where cars were, where people were at particular dates and times help us solve crimes, quite frankly," Davis said.

Though no Maryland police agency currently uses drones, lawmakers say it's time to get ahead of the curb and regulate drone use by police.

Some of the privacy bills are expected to meet opposition from Maryland law enforcement groups who will argue that changes in the law would limit their ability to fight crime.

A location track bill and similar drone bills were introduced into the General Assembly last year, but never made it out of committee.

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