The use of license plate readers and surveillance videos come a little too close to Big Brother for one state Assemblywoman's comfort.
Assemblywoman Amy Handlin introduced a packed of six privacy bills, which are also backed by Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande.
“The public has no idea about how they are being watched, which I believe is another example of the government overstepping its bounds without justification,” Handlin said.
The bills include language against the release of photos or videos from security cameras "operated by public entities," using a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint or DNA against a citizen's consent unless that citizen is under arrest, requiring court consent for a public entity to install a video camera and more.
“If there is a legitimate reason to use some of these surveillance techniques, then let a court approve it. We shouldn’t be comfortable with the notion that if you don’t have something to hide, then don’t worry. We depend on law enforcement to apprehend criminals and prevent crime, but probable cause needs to be demonstrated in order to use some of these methods.”
One bill also addresses a Shield law for journalists, requiring an opportunity to be heard in court before journalists are issued a subpoena to release information which would identify a source.
This month, Handlin added two bills addressing information obtained through computer systems in cars and license plate readers, a system used by numerous local police departments in central New Jersey.
“A person shouldn’t need to be looking over their shoulder wondering if they’re actions are being scrutinized by government," Casagrande said. "There needs to be justification for using these Big Brother practices and how long the information they retrieve can be retained."
A full list of the privacy bills introduced by Handlin:
A-4305: prohibits the improper release of photographs or videos captured by security cameras or other recording devices operated by public entities.
A-4306: prohibits a governmental entity from obtaining a biometric identifier of an individual without that individual’s consent. The bill does not prohibit any law enforcement agency from obtaining biometric identifiers of someone who has been placed under arrest. A "biometric identifier" is a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint or DNA.
A-4307: a person who knowingly obtains or discloses personally identifiable health information, in violation of the federal health privacy rule, is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
A-4308: this bill increases the penalties for the unlawful disclosure or use of taxpayer information by State tax officials. The purpose of this bill is to provide enhanced deterrence against violations of taxpayer confidentiality.
A-4309: requires a Superior Court judge to approve the installation of any video camera by a public entity.
A-4310: requires an administrative agency to include a privacy impact statement when adopting, amending, or repealing a rule.
A-4328: restricts access to recorded data imbedded in motor vehicle computer systems.
A-4398: requires judicial approval prior to installation or use of automated license plate reader by law enforcement agency.
ACR-200: proposes an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution stating that people have a right to privacy from government intrusion, unless the government follows the due process of law.
ACR-201: requests the President and Congress enact a federal shield law for journalists. A shield law would grant journalists notice and an opportunity to be heard in federal court in order to challenge a federal subpoena seeking phone records or other information identifying a source. Federal bills S.987 and H.R.1962, both titled the “Free Flow of Information Act of 2013,” were introduced in May 2013. The bills would establish the federal shield law.