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Privacy Legislation

State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) was preparing for a panel discussion yesterday on technology and privacy when the governor signed his legislation requiring law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before using information from the GPS in a person’s phone or other device. 

“This is one of many areas where technological advances have suddenly made possible unprecedented intrusions into what most people would consider their private lives,” said Biss. “The law signed today, along with the legislation we’ve passed to regulate the domestic use of drones, acknowledges the important role new technology can play in protecting the public, while at the same time drawing a line to preserve reasonable expectations of privacy.”  

The location surveillance legislation, introduced as Senate Bill 2808, allows law enforcement to obtain a tracking order — similar to a search warrant — if they have probable cause to believe obtaining current or future location information from an individual’s electronic device is needed to solve a crime or prevent a crime from taking place. In the absence of a tracking order, information collected through electronic surveillance is inadmissible in court. 

The legislation contains exceptions for emergencies such as responding to a 911 call, locating a missing person believed to be in danger or keeping track of a parolee or other person ordered by a court to wear an electronic monitoring device. It also clarifies that police and prosecutors may still make use of information already available to the public, such as locations posted publicly on social media. 

The new law takes effect immediately.

Patent Troll Legislation

Legislation State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) sponsored to crack down on “patent trolls” became law yesterday. 

“Illinois businesses — particularly small businesses that aren’t in a position to hire pricey legal representation and embark on lengthy court battles against harassing fraudsters — deserve the full protection of the law,” Biss said. “The new penalties will put patent trolls on notice that Illinois isn’t a fertile location for their scams.” 

The new law targets the practice of extorting money from businesses by threatening to sue them for fictitious violations of patents that may have expired or may not be owned by the “trolls” at all. Patent trolling is lucrative because many businesses, especially smaller companies that can’t afford to hire legal representation, opt to pay the scammers rather than spending time and money fighting them in court. 

Biss’ measure prohibits misrepresenting one’s self as the owner of a patent, seeking compensation on the basis of activities undertaken after a patent has expired, falsely claiming to have filed a patent lawsuit or using any written form of communication, including email, to falsely accuse a person or company of a patent violation with the intent of forcing a settlement. If found to be in violation of the law, patent trolls will be subject to civil penalties and/or forced to pay restitution.