Senate DFLers pass data privacy package

As we create technology that improves people’s live, we also open a lot of questions about privacy and civil liberties that haven’t existed in the past.

Senate DFLers voted to pass a data privacy omnibus bill on the floor this week that would close loopholes and establish warrant requirements for some of this new technology, including drones and smart phone apps as well as emails.

Under the new legislation, law enforcement agencies would be required to obtain a warrant in order to use a drone for surveillance, with some exceptions for emergencies, disasters, and other issues. The data collected by these drones must be deleted as soon as possible, and there are requirements for notifying individuals if they were the subject of a drone warrant. Law enforcement agencies are required to allow for public comment before purchasing a drone.

The bill also requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to search through electronic communication, namely emails. Emails that are older than 180 days may be searched without a warrant, and this legislation would close that loophole.

Smart phone apps are also included in the bill. Unique identifiers are IDs associated with electronics such as cell phones and tablets, and the various apps the electronics may use, such as Snapchat.

Unique IDs can be used to track individual devices, which can reveal user behavior as well as place users into geographic regions, creating what is essentially more GPS data.

Law enforcement agencies have asked app developers, such as Snap Chat, for this GPS data to assist in missing person cases. There has been uncertainty around sharing this data, and the bill aims to clarify that uncertainty by requiring law enforcement to obtain warrants for this data as well.

The bill also included reporting requirements for electronic location tracking warrants as well as other data privacy related issues.

Innovations in technology have increased our ability to connect with others and have broken down barriers in education, economics, and more. However, we must balance our civil liberties and rights to privacy in those innovations. Senate DFLers will keep fighting to find that balance and protect our privacy.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously and will next work its way to the House floor. (SF 3072)