Tennessee lawmakers have introduced a bill that is intended to protect the safety and privacy of residents who call 911.
The legislation, if approved, would require outside parties to receive a court order or written permission from callers before emergency organizations can release tapes of the calls, according to The Tennessean. Supporters of the measure said that the law will prevent media outlets from rebroadcasting 911 recordings that could potentially embarrass or upset the callers.
"If it's a situation where a person wants to keep it private, we need to keep it private," said State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), quoted by the media outlet.
Opponents of the bill argue that the measure will make it harder to detect mistakes and misconduct in response to emergencies. Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, told the news source that there needs to be public oversight of these critical services.
Meanwhile, phone privacy is at the center of a Federal lawsuit that was reinstated by a Federal court of appeals on March 21. The legal challenge, which had been thrown out by a Federal district judge in 2009, disputes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was passed by former President George W. Bush in 2008.
According to The New York Times, the measure legalizes wiretapping of certain terror suspects without a warrant and provides immunity to telephone companies that cooperate with the program. Civil rights groups and media organizations claim that the law is illegal because it allows government officials to listen to the calls of Americans who are not engaged in criminal activity.