In March the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously overturned that state’s draconian Eavesdropping Act, finding that it “criminalizes a wide range of innocent conduct” and “burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to serve a legitimate state interest in protecting conversational privacy.”
Last week the Illinois General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a new eavesdropping law that purports to meet the court’s constitutional concerns. Whether it actually does is a matter of dispute.
The bill, which awaits Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature, allows people to record conversations when all parties have consented or when none has a “reasonable expectation” of privacy.
That’s an improvement over the old law, which made it a felony to record any conversation without all-party consent, including public interactions with police officers. But because it may be difficult to determine in advance which conversations will be deemed private, the new version of the eavesdropping ban could still have a chilling effect on recordings of public officials.