DeSantis signs bills strengthening penalties for digital privacy violations

by | Apr 29, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation enhancing Florida’s laws against digital privacy violations, increasing penalties for unauthorized use of tracking devices and updating definitions and penalties related to digital voyeurism.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two pieces of legislation into law on Friday, intensifying Florida’s legal measures against digital privacy violations.

The first piece of legislation, Senate Bill 758, carried by Sen. Jonathan Martin, amends existing laws regarding the use of tracking devices and applications, including Apple AirTags and similar location-tracking tags. The measure criminalizes the unauthorized placement of tracking technologies on another person’s property without consent, upgrading such offenses from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

Offenders now face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The law carves out exemptions for law enforcement, caregivers, and parents or guardians when tracking minors or vulnerable adults, under stringent conditions.

“Tracking devices and tracking applications can be used to follow the location or movement of another person, potentially without that person’s knowledge or consent. Some applications have
legitimate uses, but may be accessed by third parties without the user’s consent,” A Senate legislative analysis reads. “Other applications … commonly target potential customers interested in using the technology to track the movements and communication of another without consent.”

Furthermore, CS/SB 758 mandates that sellers of vehicles disclose any installed tracking devices to buyers and provide instructions for their removal, aiming to enhance consumer protection and transparency.

The second measure, House Bill 1389, brought forth by Rep. Hillary Cassel and Rep. Lindsay Cross, updates the legal framework surrounding voyeurism in the digital realm. Renaming “video voyeurism” to “digital voyeurism,” the law revises penalties, reflecting the seriousness of privacy invasions using modern technologies.

Under the bill’s purview, a first offense by individuals aged 19 and older is now categorized as a third-degree felony. This category encompasses more severe penalties for either disseminating or commercially exploiting voyeuristic content. Moreover, if the perpetrator is a family or household member, or if they hold a position of authority or trust relative to the victim, the offense escalates to a higher felony level. This adjustment underscores increased responsibility and accountability for those in positions of power or trust.

The bill also specifies that each act of unauthorized viewing, recording, or dissemination constitutes a separate offense.


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