On Monday, March 29, at 10 a.m., the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing in the Philadelphia federal courthouse on whether the federal electronic privacy laws need to be updated to better regulate secret video surveillance. Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will testify.
Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter called the hearing in response to recent allegations that public schools in the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania have secretly used webcams on school-issued laptops to visually monitor students while they were in their homes. At Monday’s hearing, Bankston will urge Congress to update the federal wiretapping statute to protect against secret video surveillance in the same way it protects against secret eavesdropping on private conversations. Such a change to the law would clearly require the government to obtain a search warrant before engaging in secret video surveillance of private places and would protect against similar spying by non-government actors, such as stalkers, computer criminals, private schools, private employers and others.
“It doesn’t make sense that federal law regulates secret eavesdropping but doesn’t equally protect us from secret video surveillance, which can be even more invasive,” said Bankston. “Just as the federal wiretapping statute protects against electronic eavesdropping, it should also protect against secret video recording, whether in the home or in any other place where people have a reasonable expectation that they are not going to be photographed.”
Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
“Video Laptop Surveillance: Does Title III Need to Be Updated?”
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs
Monday, March 29
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
601 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
For more on the hearing: