Kelsey’s Law On Hold In Ohio After Cell Phone Privacy Issues Raised

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UPDATED: Wednesday June 19, 2013 6:37 PM

With stories about the NSA collecting phone records, and the government seizing the phone records of journalists, one of the most bipartisan pieces of legislation in Ohio this session has now been put on hold over privacy concerns.

"This bill is far worse than the NSA scandal," said Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.  "The second half of this bill is wide open.  It allows for recovery of cell phone information for any reason whatsoever."

Thompson is talking about Senate Bill 5, or Kelsey’s Law.  

The bill is named after Kansas teenager Kelsey Smith who was found dead four days after her abduction.

Her cell phone provider was reluctant to share with her parents or law enforcement her cell phone location.

Kelsey’s Law would require providers to give the information to police in emergency situations.

"I don't care about text messages, I don't care about who people are calling, just where is this device," said Missey Smith, Kelsey’s mother. “Once that information was released, Kelsey's body was found in 45 minutes."

Smith testified before Ohio lawmakers about the bill earlier this year.  

She says the immediate release of a cell phone’s location could help save lives.

"When I call 911, I want the police answering. I don't want a customer service representative," Smith told 10TV News.

The bill was tabled on Tuesday after Thompson testified before a House committee.

“We support the first half of this bill that allows for retrieval in emergency situations,” said Thompson.  “It’s the second half of this bill that allows cell phone carriers to break their contracts with you, the Ohio customer, sell your information to (the) government and have absolute immunity for that for any reason.”

Even with the delay, backers say they still expect the bill to pass.

"Law enforcement and parental groups support this bill," said Democratic Rep. Teresa Fedor of Toledo.  "It's common sense. You don't have an opportunity for anybody to abuse the system."

The state Senate approved the bill in April on a 32-1 vote.

Several victims’ rights organizations, along with major wireless service providers in Ohio, support Kelsey's Law.

Smith says the Ohio House should act quickly to prevent the agony of parents looking for a missing child.

"There is no reason why you would let a law like this not pass," she said.

Thompson says if it can be amended to mandate warrants for cell phone searches, he'll drop his opposition.

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