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Phone hacking bill passes out of committee

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday passed SB53, better known as. “The Phone Hacking Bill,” is an attempt by Sen. Bryan Taylor (R- Prattville) to bring the state’s laws into the digital age.

“Technology has given us so many wonderful advantages but we have to make sure the laws keep up with the technologies,” said Taylor.

Taylor said he was motivated to bring the bill before the Legislature after learning about the phone hacking scandal that took place last summer in Great Britain.

Taylor said, “I filed the bill because I was so appalled at the whole phone hacking scandal that was happening.”

The News International phone-hacking scandal is an ongoing controversy involving the News of the World and other British tabloid newspapers. Investigations conducted from 2005–2007 concluded that the paper’s phone hacking activities were limited to celebrities, politicians and members of the British Royal Family. However, in July 2011, it was revealed that the phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of deceased British soldiers, and victims of the 7/7 London bombings were also accessed.

“I thought that phone hacking was someone breaking into your voice through your voice mail password,” said Taylor, “But there was an expose on people who use this software, particularly private investigators. They can install this software on to your phone without you ever knowing it. They can do it through an email, or a text message.”

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This type of phone hacking include tricking a mobile phone user into downloading malware which monitors activity on the phone, or bluesnarfing, which is unauthorized access to a phone via Bluetooth.

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“This gives them access to your emails, your text messages, your phone conversations,” said Taylor, “In some cases with certain software, even if you do not have your phone turned on they can use it as a listening device while you are sitting having lunch with your friends.”

Taylor says that he believes it is important that the law protects a citizen individual privacy. He also thinks this is a tool that is effective in corporate espionage as well as bring used by the media to spy of public as well as private citizens.

The bill would expand the current crimes of installing eavesdropping devices and possession of eavesdropping devices to include the use of an eavesdropping device to access or intercept communications on a personal telecommunication device such as a cell phone.

“I certainly hope we will pass this bill said, Taylor, “ I believe we will.”

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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