Welcome to the 2015 legislative session and your weekly update. While the Florida legislature is not technically in session yet, committees are meeting to hold hearings and pass bills and we want to start sharing information with you now. Check back to the ACLU of Florida blog every week to find out what your representatives and senators are up to.

We have both good and bad news about the past week in the state capitol. On Monday, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee held a very important oversight hearing with the Department of Corrections.  In preparation for legislation that would try to reduce the prevalence of abuse and neglect in Florida prisons, the Senators grilled the Secretary and Inspector General of the Department of Corrections about the failure to provide health care to inmates, the inability to arrest corrections officers for criminal abuse of those in their custody and a general failure of accountability in the entire system.

Senator Evers (R-Pensacola) went so far to recommend that all health care contracts with private corporations that are cutting corners with our inmates’ health be cancelled and rewritten with some sort of accountability for their abject failure. On a surprise visit to one prison he was appalled to find that only one health care worker was available to treat 1400 inmates.

Corrections Secretary Julie Jones even admitted that at the current rate, it would be fall before she gets a handle on how anyone is held accountable for abuse in the prisons and that she wouldn’t be able to make any recommendations for changes until next year. That is simply unacceptable.  Both democrats and republicans on this committee are tenaciously pursuing reform and the legislation has many hurdles to go. We will push to make sure that bill – which is an excellent start on reform – includes accountability mechanisms that are swift and iron clad.

The bad news is that the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a novel bill that would permit access to one’s “digital assets” such as their email, photos, social media accounts and all other online activity after they die. Right now, federal law and corporate practice dictates that the privacy protections you enjoy in life follow you when you die.  Meaning that unless you make explicit arrangements otherwise, your Facebook account, your email account and all your other digital information is inaccessible. This bill, SB 102 would allow whoever is the executor of your estate – perhaps a lawyer, parent, spouse or other family member – to access all those accounts.

While advocates of this bill describe it as a way to track the money and settle an estate, it is much broader than that. This bill impacts your online dating profile, the posts you make to blogs, the documents you save in the cloud, all your texts and emails, and the photos you store on line. In the coming weeks we will ask you to contact your representatives in opposition to this unprecedented invasion of privacy.

This week, the House Criminal Justice Committee will hear a bill that would require police departments that use body cameras to announce regulations regarding their use.  Read my op-ed here about how those policies should deal with privacy and accountability for recorded abuse. Check back here to see how this bill emerges from its committee consideration and how you can help make sure this very important police practice oversight tool is implemented right.