Bills at the state level in Montana are looking to place restrictions on the federal government’s snooping authority, making it harder for “big brother” to watch citizen activity inside the state.
“A lot of the privacy bills basically should have been in place in the last two decades,” Republican state Rep. Daniel Zolnikov said. “When these new technologies came into place, we should have had protections with them, and it seems that no one has really taken that step forward.”
The bills look to combat the use of license plate scanners by law enforcement, both federal and state, despite the fact that the state’s law enforcement agencies don’t actually have any license plate scanners in the state.
“Just when I finalized my bill draft, we learned the DEA had started a [program] in 2009 that was secretly collecting millions of pictures of license plates and figuring out where people were going,” Zolnikov said.
The state’s Justice Department opposes the bill and said in a statement that the type of enforcement that collects license plate photo data does not occur at the state level nor within any other law enforcement body in the state.
Other bills proposed in the state Legislature target the data recorders in cars that can collect the activities in the moments leading up to a car accident. Privacy advocates said that the collection of that information is a violation of individual liberties. However, Insurance companies oppose that legislation because it would block their access to the data during accident investigations.
“This is the same argument that we constantly hear about privacy and the invasion of privacy,” the state Senate Majority Leader Matt Rosendale said. “If good people are trying to use information for good purposes, then we shouldn’t be afraid of them taking it from us.”
Other bills in the Legislature would touch on surveillance of emails, social media and the locations where law enforcement could set up traffic stop checkpoints.