It’s not often you get Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and members of Occupy to agree on something. Monday that happened as legislators held a news conference to promote an amendment to Minnesota’s constitution to protect personal data from unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant.
Supporters say the amendment is needed to clarify that personal data is covered by the fourth amendment. Bill author Sen. Branden Petersen (R) points to recent revelations that a loophole in federal law allows the government to search and seize any emails that are more than six months old without a warrant.
The bill has been passed through the Civil Law Committee and will be taken up in Government Operations committee on Thursday. The bill still does not have a hearing scheduled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Petersen says Sen. Ron Latz (DFL) still needs to be convinced the bill should be heard.
Replay of the video is above. Press release from today’s news conference is below.
Besides Petersen, those supporting the amendment include Sen. Dave Thompson (R), Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL) Sen. Dave Brown (R), Rep. Peggy Scott (R), Rep. John Lesch (DFL), Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of ACLU-MN, Neil Lynch, Chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, David Arvidson, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, Karl Eggers, Liberty Minnesota, Kurtis Hanna, Restore the Fourth Minnesota, Jake Duesenberg, Executive Director of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance, Twila Brase, President of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom
and Representatives of Occupy Minnesota.
A group of bipartisan legislators were joined by data privacy advocates today to propose an amendment to the Minnesota constitution. The data privacy amendment would expand the current law to protect electronic communications and data from unreasonable search and seizure, giving it the same treatment in the state constitution as papers and other personal property.
“In today’s world, every intimate detail of our lives exists in a digital format. Electronic data like emails and photos is a big part of what Minnesotans consider their private information,” said Sen. Branden Petersen (R-Andover). “This constitutional amendment would make sure Minnesotans’ data is fully protected without having to rely on the court system’s interpretation of privacy. The public response for this bill has been overwhelmingly positive, so I’m looking forward to giving citizens the opportunity to vote in favor of protecting their electronic data.”
Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) added, “As our society continues to see technology play an ever-expanding role, we must adapt to better protect our citizens. Freedom from unwarranted intrusion into our private lives is a core value that is widely shared and reflected in our state’s constitution. Inclusion of electronic communications and data among those private realms already explicitly protected is an important step to take to protect our citizens.”
If passed by the legislature, Minnesotans will be able to vote on the amendment in a ballot question in the 2016 election. In recent polls, similar initiatives have received up to 80% public support.
“This constitutional amendment will ensure that new twenty-first century communications are protected just as much as your other personal property,” said Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), Chair of the House Civil Law and Data Practices Committee.
“Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard on this important issue of personal privacy. Every law-abiding citizen deserves the right to their personal privacy, the right to be forgotten by the internet, and the right to keep their private information from being logged in government agency databases indefinitely,” said Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul). “It’s an issue that’s bigger than government, and that’s why I think it’s important enough to be put before the Minnesota voters as a constitutional question. We all need to be involved in the conversation about how technological advances affect our day to day lives, and what that future looks like.”
A diverse gathering of representatives from citizen advocacy groups stood with legislators to express support for the data privacy amendment. Proponents of the bill include: the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, Liberty Minnesota, Restore the Fourth Minnesota, the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance, the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, and Occupy Minnesota.
“Technology has advanced, but our laws have not kept up with the digital age. This proposal makes it clear that the 4th amendment protects our electronic communications and data,” said Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU of Minnesota. “Where we go online, whom we email, and what we say reveals a great deal about us, and the government shouldn’t have access to this information without a warrant. Our right to privacy for our persons, houses, papers, and effects remains as true today as it did over 200 years ago, whether those papers and effects are stored in our desk drawers or in the cloud.”