Privacy Advisor

State Legislative Roundup: Privacy Bills Abound

March 29, 2013

Several state legislatures have been considering a variety of privacy bills during the past week. Here’s a brief roundup of the activity being noted by media outlets:

Electronic Communication Privacy

Reflecting the national debate on reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, both Montana and California are considering similar legislation. California State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced SB 467 in the hopes of curbing unfettered electronic surveillance. “No law enforcement agency could obtain someone’s mail or letters that were delivered to their home without first securing a search warrant,” Leno said, adding, “but that same protection is surprisingly not extended to our digital life.”

The bill has backing from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union. The EFF’s Hanni Fakhoury said, “With SB 467, the warrant requirement becomes the status quo for all electronic communication providers and all law enforcement agencies across the state.”

The Montana House Judiciary Committee has also heard testimony on requiring law enforcement to obtain warrants prior to tracking individuals via their smartphones. One critic of the proposed legislation, HB 603, said, “You can always turn off the location on this device. So I question whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in something you can turn off.” A separate bill, SB 150, under consideration would prohibit state use of drones to gather evidence in a criminal investigation.

Employee Social Media Privacy

Social media privacy initiatives have also been on the docket in Arkansas and Oregon this week. In Oregon, HB 2654 would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or applicant to provide access to any of their social media accounts or to compel them to add the employer to a social media contact list.

A pair of bills has made their way through the Arkansas state legislature as well. One proposed bill would prohibit employee access and a second bill uses similar rules but would apply to higher education institutions. “In today’s job market, people are willing to agree to just about anything to get hired, and we don’t want to have employers tempted to use that bargaining position to require people to give up their privacy in order to get employment,” said state Rep. Nate Steel (D-Nashville). Several states, including California, Delaware, Illinois, Michgan and New Jersey, have already passed similar legislation.

E-Book Privacy

The Arizona legislature has been considering a bill that would include digital books under state law protections that would prevent disclosure of public library records. SB 1099 passed the House in a 57-1 vote earlier this month.

An Indiana bill protecting farmers from unauthorized videotaping of their lands has been under scrutiny. After passing through the state senate, SB 373 drew opposition from environmental, media and animal activist groups. One media group said the bill violates First Amendment rights of citizens.

Editor’s Note: The Privacy Tracker, a suite of services providing more robust updates on the latest federal and state legislative activity, will host its next monthly audio conference Thursday, April 4 at noon ET.

IAPP Staff