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Updating Pennsylvania's Wiretapping Law

The state Senate may soon take up a bill to overhaul the commonwealth's wiretapping law, but critics say the scope of the proposal is too broad.

The bill that passed the House would allow the recording of conversations when someone believes the tape would provide evidence of a serious crime. Supporters say the new measure will keep up with technology like cell phones or video messaging.

Recordings are currently prohibited without the consent of all parties. Representative Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) sponsored the bill. He said as things stand, criminals have an advantage.

"Law enforcement officers today have to apply for and get a court order every time a suspect switches phones," said Marsico. "Criminals know that."

But Andy Hoover with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania disagrees.

"The supporters of this bill are using technology as an excuse to massively expand their power and the powers of civilians to conduct surveillance," Hoover said.

Hoover said his organization does back about half of the provisions in the proposal. He said the Senate is expected to address some of the more controversial parts of the measure.

Marsico said raising privacy concerns amounts to fear-mongering.

"This bill would enhance privacy by making people aware when recording equipment may be in use," Marsico said.

Supporters say it's been 14 years since the wiretap law has been updated.