An Overview of 2019 Technology Policy in the Texas Legislature

Jan 31, 2019 | Policy

The Texas Legislature meets every odd-numbered year in the city of our headquarters – Austin. We are excited to track technology policy development in the 2019 session. We hope to see several bills pass that move our state forward in terms of keeping policy up to speed with innovation. This year we are particularly focused on bills submitted in the areas of stingray technology, drone surveillance and cybersecurity.

Warrants and Cell Site Simulators

So far this session, a couple of bills have been submitted regarding law enforcement’s use of cell site simulators and cell site information. Some people refer to these simulators as stingrays. “Stingray” is a brand name and a commonly used term for IMSI catchers, a type of cell site simulator. Law enforcement has long been using these devices to intercept mobile calls and collect location data without adequate regulations on how and when they can be used. We are excited to see bills this session related to regulating the use of cell site simulators. However, HB 352 and 353 provide limited definitions and do not describe how the devices work or how they are configured by law enforcement. HB 352 does not distinguish between the different types of cell site location information. In short, the bills in their current state lack technical specificity and do not provide enough privacy protection for innocent people.

Increasing State Cybersecurity Measures

There are several bills this session that would boost the state’s cybersecurity efforts. SB 76 and HB 400 aim to establish a “Grid Security Council” that would oversee cybersecurity of our state’s electrical grid. This is essential given increased awareness of Russia’s ability to hack our infrastructure.