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Specter introduces anti-video surveillance bill following Pa. laptop camera flap

Three Senate Democrats are hoping to close a loophole in federal wiretapping laws that essentially allowed one Pennsylvania school to spy on a student using a laptop camera.

The “Surreptitious Video Surveillance Act,” introduced Friday by Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), would institute the nation’s first explicit rules outlawing video surveillance.

Under the new legislation, persons caught capturing and storing video without the taped user’s consent would face the same civil and criminal penalties as those who wiretap an unsuspecting caller’s phone.

The bill updates the current Wiretap Act, drafted in the 1960s at a time when Internet video did not even exist. According to Specter, who chiefly authored the new legislation, the revision is essential to safeguard Americans “from unwanted intrusions in their homes where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

“Many Americans would be surprised to learn that there is no federal statute to protect them from being secretly videotaped in their homes,” added Feingold, a co-sponsor, in a joint statement released Friday.

“I am pleased to join Senators Specters and Kaufman in introducing legislation that will close this loophole,” he continued, noting, “This bill permits the government to conduct necessary surveillance while protecting the privacy rights of innocent Americans.”

The trio’s effort arrives a few months after news broke that school administrators at Harriton High School in Pennsylvania had activated a webcam installed on one student’s school-issued laptop without his knowledge or permission.

Thanks: THE HILL/Tony Romm



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