A first-of-its-kind law in Illinois limiting law enforcement access to data from household digital devices sits at the forefront of an emerging legal debate over protecting the privacy of such records.

The state’s law, which takes effect Jan. 1, comes as law enforcement seeks to tap into consumers’ growing collection of internet-connected devices, from smart speakers to security cameras. These devices can capture conversations, movements, and other information that could be used for investigating crimes.

Known as the Protecting Household Privacy Act, the law restricts the sharing of device data by requiring a search warrant or permission from the device’s owner, with some exceptions in emergency scenarios.

The law is meant to set boundaries for when the makers of such devices turn over data to law enforcement, rather than leaving it in the hands of tech companies like Amazon.com Inc. to set their own standards, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which pushed for the law.

Its focus on data-sharing with police highlights a legal tension over expectations that people’s homes are a private space, even as they invite in devices that can document their social connections and record their whereabouts.

“If I plan a crime on a street corner, and someone hears me, I have no expectation of privacy there,” said Peter Hanna, legal adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Under what’s known as the third-party doctrine, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that people can’t expect privacy in information voluntarily shared with third parties. The doctrine emerged from a 1976 decision in United States v. Miller concerning bank records and a 1979 decision in Smith v. Maryland involving phone calls.

“Now third parties are deeply embedded into almost every aspect of our lives,” Hanna said.

Existing Protections

Despite the potentially sensitive data that home devices can collect, existing legal protections weren’t designed to cover such data, said Ángel Díaz, a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles Law School.

The federal Stored Communications Act governs law enforcement’s ability to seek certain types of electronically stored data, including emails, from companies such as Microsoft Corp. and <rte.company state='{"cms.site.owner":{"_ref":"00000166-e5a9-d785-a767-fffdcac50000","_type":"00000151-acf5-d1ce-a159-bff728d6001e"},"cms.content.publishDate":1640206730995,"cms.content.publishUser":{"_ref":"00000155-0c71-d8…….

Source: https://news.bloomberglaw.com/privacy-and-data-security/law-curbing-police-access-to-home-data-tests-privacy-boundaries

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