Minnesotans deserve a vote to protect electronic data privacy
Senate Republicans recently introduced the “My Life, My Data” constitutional amendment. If adopted, Senate File 32 would give Minnesotans the opportunity to vote to explicitly protect electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures.
For most of us, nearly every aspect of our lives is kept somewhere electronically. Aside from basic personal information like emails, messages, photos, and phone records, our cell phones and computers contain sensitive material like passwords, social security numbers, and bank account information. Our data is everywhere, and we often forget how easy it can be accessed.
“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 Senator Branden Petersen (R-Andover), the bill’s chief author in the Senate. “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.”
Law enforcement currently uses a standard of “reasonable suspicion” when accessing our data. This low standard gives them wide latitude to access and retain your personal information. Until last year, for example, government able to track you without a warrant via your cell phone. Legislative action ended that practice, but we can go further. Your data is too valuable to leave up to the court’s interpretation of privacy. This constitutional amendment would clarify and strengthen protections for all forms of electronic data.
It’s important to remember adopting this amendment would not negatively impact law enforcement’s ability to apprehend criminals. It’s not an effort to ban the police from using electronic data in emergency situations; but they must have a good reason first.
Last fall, a similar amendment was supported by 75 percent of voters in Missouri. Minnesota voters should have the chance to have their voices heard as well.