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Sheriff: State Privacy Laws 'Have Not Kept Pace' With Technology

Lawmakers and law enforcement are discussing how much personal information is protected from devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2017, file photo, a new Amazon Echo is displayed during a program announcing several new Amazon products by the company, in Seattle. Big Mouth Billy Bass is programmed to respond to Alexa voice commands through a compatible Amazon Echo device. That means the singing and talking fish will lip synch to Alexa’s responses and will dance to songs from Amazon music. When it’s first plugged in, it will respond “Woo-hoo, that feels good!” (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

With new technology like smart devices and facial recognition, lawmakers are weighing ways to balance privacy rights with law enforcement investigations.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Wednesday workshopped how to balance protecting an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, while not hindering law enforcement’s investigative power.

With new technology like facial recognition and smart phones, privacy protections are no longer black and white.

A key topic lawmakers discussed is in-home devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Assistant Public Defender Victor Holder says the current legal landscape has not kept up.

“They’re finding the third party doctrine may be an outdated doctrine, given that in order to use the technology you almost have to consent to everything," said Holder. "To use the cell phone, you give the cell phone provider your location. To use these in-home devices, you’re aware that they may be recording you for marketing purposes.”

The committee's chairman, Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa), thinks it is important to bring together various stakeholders.

“Often times if we’ll bring good actors together across different settings, even where they may be adversarial in their daily encounters, we can get to good public policy," said Grant. "We can identify good actors, we can identify people who can find the common ground to suggest that innovation the Fourth Amendment are not antithetical but are challenging.”

Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Sheriff, worries state law "has not kept pace" with technological advancements. Cell phone data is considered priveledged under current law, but Gualtieri suggested maybe it should not be.

The committee is poised to consider whether law enforcement can use drones for surveillance, and Grant expects a number of other privacy issues to come up.

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to Central Florida Public Media. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with degrees in both Broadcast Journalism and Psychology. While at UCF, she was an intern for Central Florida’s public affairs show, Intersection. She joined on as Morning Edition Host in 2019. In 2022, Ms. Blake was appointed to the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalist’s board of directors.