As many still advocate for a national privacy law, experts debate where to set guidelines on how police work with constituent data. The discussion isn’t as simple as personal privacy versus community safety.

Law enforcement has reasons to want to tap into the wealth of digital data. Officials might ask third parties for geofencing information — which identifies all devices within a certain area during a particular time frame — to determine who to add or subtract from their list of possible suspects, for example. Or officers might look to data from social media companies and other third parties to revive cases for which they otherwise lack investigative leads, said Teresa Jauregui, chief legal officer for the National Child Protection Task Force (NCPTF), during an R Street Institute panel. The NCPTF is a nonprofit that offers law enforcement support with child exploitation, human trafficking, and missing persons cases.

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