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Brandes Bill Would Protect Citizens' Privacy

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, filed a bill Thursday to protect citizens’ expectation of privacy in the use of their cell phones and microphone-enabled household devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. SB 1256 would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant in order to search communications and location data contained in these devices.

Jeff Brandes
With the virtually overnight spread of "smart speakers" -- for example Amazon's Echo with its Alexa cloud-based voice -- some owners have begun to panic at the ease with which their privacy can be breached.

“As technology continues to become more integrated in our daily lives, it is critical the law recognize that electronic devices are the modern equivalent of papers and effects, falling under the protections of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution,” Brandes said in a press statement. “It is my hope that this collaborative effort will accomplish my goal of bringing us into this day and age technologically without compromising law enforcement’s ability to provide public safety.”

Brandes says he sought advice from industry experts and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement prior to filing the bill to ensure privacy is maintained and to provide clarity on how law enforcement may access these devices.

SB 1256 makes it clear that collection by law enforcement of an individual’s location, a cell phone, or a home enabled device, without the consent of the person or owner of the devices, should be allowed only when authorized by a warrant, unless certain exigent circumstances exist.

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