States Protect Consumer Privacy

November 4, 2013

State legislatures around the country, facing growing public concern about the collection and trade of personal data, have rushed to propose a series of privacy laws, from limiting how schools can collect student data to deciding whether the police need a warrant to track cellphone locations, says the New York Times.

  • Over two dozen privacy laws have passed this year in more than 10 states, in places as different as Oklahoma and California.
  • Many lawmakers say that news reports of widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency have led to more support for the bills among constituents.
  • And in some cases, the state lawmakers say, they have felt compelled to act because of the stalemate in Washington on legislation to strengthen privacy laws.

This year, Texas passed a bill introduced by Jonathan Stickland, a Republican state representative in Texas, that requires warrants for email searches, while Oklahoma enacted a law meant to protect the privacy of student data. At least three states proposed measures to regulate who inherits digital data, including Facebook passwords, when a user dies.

  • In Florida, a lawmaker has drafted a bill that would prohibit schools from collecting biometric data to verify who gets free lunches and who gets off at which bus stop.
  • Vermont has limited the use of data collected by license plate readers, which are used mostly by police to record images of license plates.
  • California, long a pioneer on digital privacy laws, has passed three online privacy bills this year. One gives children the right to erase social media posts, another makes it a misdemeanor to publish identifiable nude pictures online without the subject's permission, and a third requires companies to tell consumers whether they abide by "do not track" signals on web browsers.

John Pezold, a Republican representative in Georgia, said that issues like creating jobs were more pressing than privacy for many of his constituents. But he said the issue of digital privacy was beginning to bubble up, especially because of the recent reports on eavesdropping by the federal government.

Source: Somini Sengupta, "No U.S. Action, So States Move on Privacy Law," New York Times, October 30, 2013.

 

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