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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina will host a briefing for lawmakers, the media, and the general public about the need to pass legislation to regulate the government’s use of surveillance technology that could invade North Carolinians’ privacy on Thursday, February 5.

Speakers will discuss how North Carolina law enforcement agencies are able to track the private lives of ordinary citizens through their cell phones, license plates, and more, and what types of legislation are needed to protect privacy rights from unwarranted searches. A Public Policy Polling survey released today shows that 85 percent of North Carolina voters agree that better laws are needed to protect privacy in the digital age, such as requiring police to obtain a warrant before conducting surveillance against an individual.

“North Carolinians across the political spectrum agree that we need better laws to protect our privacy in the digital age against unwarranted use of surveillance technology,” said ACLU of North Carolina Policy Director Sarah Preston. “We hope lawmakers hear this message loud and clear and take appropriate actions to safeguard all North Carolinians’ right to privacy during this legislative session.” 

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RALEIGH – Support for protecting citizens from unwarranted government surveillance and moving toward more compassionate medical marijuana laws may be rising in the North Carolina General Assembly, according to an annual legislative report card released today by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC). The report card shows how members of the North Carolina House and Senate voted on legislation introduced during the 2014 session concerning five key civil liberties issues: privacy rights, protections for government whistleblowers, religious liberty, racial and juvenile justice, and compassionate drug policy.

Of particular note, 18 Senate Republicans voted against H.B. 348, which would have dramatically expanded the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) on state-owned roads and highways without including crucial safeguards to protect people’s privacy from unwarranted government surveillance. The ACLU-NC has been working with lawmakers from both parties to pass substantive privacy protections concerning law enforcement’s use of ALPRs and other surveillance technology that is currently unregulated in North Carolina. 

“North Carolinians who support civil liberties should be cautiously optimistic about the growing numbers of lawmakers who support protecting people’s privacy from unwarranted government surveillance,” said ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston. “The near unanimous support for providing patients suffering from epileptic seizures with safe access to a marijuana-based oil is also very encouraging, and we continue to urge lawmakers to extend their compassion to other North Carolinians who are suffering and could benefit from a comprehensive medical marijuana law. However, support for many other key civil liberties, particularly religious liberty for students of minority beliefs, was sorely lacking in both political parties this session.”

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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that police must obtain a warrant before searching the contents of a cell phone seized from someone who has been arrested, absent a true emergency situation. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed an amicus brief in the case, Riley v. California.

Steven R. Shapiro, the national legal director of the ACLU, had this reaction:

“By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today’s decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans. We have entered a new world but, as the court today recognized, our old values still apply and limit the government’s ability to rummage through the intimate details of our private lives.”   

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RALEIGH – Seventy-two percent of North Carolina voters believe law enforcement and other government agencies should be required to obtain a warrant from a judge before using a drone, or unmanned aircraft, to conduct surveillance on a private citizen, according to a new poll released today by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) and conducted by Public Policy Polling. Only 13% of those polled said they did not support the warrant requirement.  

The survey of 884 North Carolina voters across the ideological spectrum comes just days before a state legislative committee tasked with studying and recommending ways to regulate drone use in North Carolina holds its third meeting on Monday, March 17. A provision in the state budget has placed a de facto moratorium on drone use by most government agencies for the next two years.

“It’s clear that North Carolinians value their right to privacy and strongly oppose giving the government the power to conduct surveillance on private citizens without a warrant,” said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the ACLU-NC. “As lawmakers move to establish rules for drones in North Carolina, they should respect the will of the people and make sure that any new drone laws include strong privacy protections that would require the government to obtain a warrant before conducting surveillance on private citizens.” 

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