As hearings continue in Washington examining government spying, a New Jersey lawmaker is looking to crack down on 'Big Brother' techniques in the Garden State.

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Deputy Assembly Republican Leader Amy Handlin has introduced a series of bills designed to protect New Jerseyans from unwarranted invasion into their private lives.

"The public has become acutely aware of the 'Big Brother' syndrome of government overstepping its bounds and intruding into the area of respecting personal privacy," says Handlin. "This legislation helps to remedy some of those concerns through our system of checks and balances."

In total, Handlin sponsors six bills and two resolutions to address various aspects of a person's right to privacy as well as freedom of the press.

One of the resolutions asks the federal government to enact a shield law for journalists similar to the statutory law already in place in 32 states, including New Jersey, which gives reporters the opportunity to challenge a government subpoena to access privileged source information.

"Freedom of the press has always been a birthright of this country," explains Handlin. "Yet the United States Department of Justice did not afford the Associated Press and Fox News the opportunity to repress obtaining reporters' phone records and emails and is a serious breach of this freedom."

The Assemblywoman's legislation would:

  • Prohibit the improper release of photographs or videos captured by security cameras or other recording devices operated by public entities.
  • Prohibit a governmental entity from obtaining a biometric identifier of an individual without that individual's consent. The bill does not prohibit any law enforcement agency from obtaining biometric identifiers of someone who has been placed under arrest. A "biometric identifier" is a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint or DNA.
  • A person who knowingly obtains or discloses personally identifiable health information, in violation of the federal health privacy rule, is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
  • Increase the penalties for the unlawful disclosure or use of taxpayer information by State tax officials. The purpose of this bill is to provide enhanced deterrence against violations of taxpayer confidentiality.
  • Require a Superior Court judge to approve the installation of any video camera by a public entity.
  • Require an administrative agency to include a privacy impact statement when adopting, amending, or repealing a rule.
  • Propose an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution stating that people have a right to privacy from government intrusion, unless the government follows the due process of law.
  • Request the President and Congress enact a federal shield law for journalists. A shield law would grant journalists notice and an opportunity to be heard in federal court in order to challenge a federal subpoena seeking phone records or other information identifying a source. Federal bills S.987 and H.R.1962, both titled the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2013," were introduced in May 2013. The bills would establish the federal shield law.

"There must be a demonstrated security or law enforcement need by a government agency to access information that is considered personal," says Handlin. "People are guaranteed the right of due process. Reports of government intrusion into this hollowed entitlement have many questioning the extent to which this right is respected."