Potenial Privacy Act Discussed at Legistlative Breakfast

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joebenningVERMONT- Matters were brought up such as Marijuana Legislation and the current hot spot EB-5 Funding at the Legislative Breakfast, but another controversial topic came into play: the discussion about the Privacy Act, Bill S. 18.
This bill was introduced by Senator Tim Ashe and Senator Joe Benning, and was read for the first time on January 14th, 2015.

"We have one thing we're really working on and that is the Privacy Protection Act, we've got to get that out there." said Marcia Martel a Representative from Caledonia County.
Currently, there are no specific laws requiring the protection of citizens' privacy, excluding the fact that a warrant must be obtained in order for officials to access your phone records. Other than that, residents' personal lives-- medical records, e-mails, text messages, social media networks, and driving records obtained by license plate readers on cop cars-- are pretty transparent in the eyes of the government. But Benning and Ashe are trying to change that with the introduction of Bill S.18


"This right includes the individual's right to keep personal information private, to communicate with others privately, and to make decisions concerning his or her body. This section shall not be construed to modify the public's right of access to public records, and will be used as provided by law." says Benning.

Some of the major details involved with this include requiring all state law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before using a drone in surveillance situations, as well as requiring a court issued search warrant before officials can obtain information on electronic communication devices, and the restriction of the use of automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) systems, and to require all data obtained by ALPRs to be kept confidential, and for limitations to be applied on ALPRs and how much information they store-- and for how long. Marcia Martel, Caledonia County Representative, agrees with Benning that limitations need to be put on this kind of technology, saying essentially the results are not great enough.

"They've read over eight million plates in the last 18 months, like they said if you're in a busy city like Colchester or Winooski, you can read the same plate 4-5 times in one week. But they've only had 31 inquiries."

Martel expresses further worries in the rights to privacy with this technology being used by groups not just limited to government officials.

"One of the things that's coming up that I really don't want is we have a group called Vigilant that want license plate readers, so it'd be easier for them to repo cars, and I don't think license plate readers should be used for that."

This bill passed through the Senate Committee on Judiciary by a unanimous 5-0 vote on March 17th. On March 19th, it passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 7-0 vote. It went further on--but ultimately did not pass, as of last week. It will be reintroduced next session.

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