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Prosecutor Backing Electronic Privacy Bill

The Illinois Senate is considering limits on the ways law enforcement can use electronic tracking information. Both privacy advocates and police are in favor of the change.

With the popularity of GPS-enabled smart phones, many of us are constantly broadcasting our location. And Illinois law doesn't have much to say about how that information can and can't be used against us in court.

Privacy advocates want restrictions. And even law enforcement can be left guessing as to what's legal.

Patrick Coughlan is with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. He says Illinois law is outdated when it comes to modern tracking technology.

"A search warrant -- you have to give notice at the time the search is executed, which kind of defeats the purpose of putting a tracker on a vehicle if you have to knock on a window and tell the person that we're now monitoring you," Coughlan says.

The proposed legislation would require police to obtain a search warrant before using current and future location data. There are exceptions — like in cases of abductions, terrorism, and computer hacking. And police are still free to use data that's available to anyone, like the GPS information that's often attached to photos posted on social media.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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