The New York Civil Liberties Union announced today that New York Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz will introduce the New York State Electronic Communication Privacy Act, a bill that will require police to get a warrant before seizing or accessing sensitive information from people’s phones, emails and text messages. The NYCLU’s announcement is one of 17 taking place simultaneously throughout the country, as a bipartisan collection of elected officials introduce digital privacy legislation in states including Illinois, Hawaii, Alabama and New Hampshire.
“New Yorkers keep their most sensitive, private and personal information on phones and emails, and this information is increasingly accessible by law enforcement’s powerful surveillance tools,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We applaud Assemblyman Dinowitz for his commitment to introducing a bill advancing our privacy laws in order to ensure that law enforcement can protect our safety without violating our privacy.”
“In today’s digital age, New Yorkers should not have to choose between using new technology and maintaining their constitutional rights to privacy,” said Assemblyman Dinowitz. “There is absolutely no reason that electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets and laptops should be treated any differently than a citizen’s car or home when it comes to search and seizure laws. New digital privacy legislation will be a significant step towards protecting the privacy rights of New Yorkers.”
The forthcoming New York State Electronic Communication Privacy Act will make sure that under most circumstances, the police go to a judge and get a warrant before they can access sensitive information, including data from personal electronic devices, emails, digital documents, text messages and location information. The bill will also include reasonable exceptions to the warrant requirement in emergency situations – such as when police are searching for a missing child – so that law enforcement can continue to effectively and efficiently protect public safety. The legislation will include notice, reporting and enforcement provisions so that there is proper transparency and oversight to ensure it will be followed.
New York is one of 16 states plus the District of Columbia where forthcoming electronic privacy legislation is being announced today, including protections for student privacy, location tracking and personal data. A recent poll conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research found that 90 percent of Americans believed (73 percent of them “strongly”) that the next president should make “protecting privacy so we have more control over our personal information” a policy priority. The multi-state effort, on social media at #TakeCTRL, sends the message that states are more than willing to step up and fill the void when the federal government has failed. The bills that will be introduced in 16 states plus the District of Columbia have the ability to impact nearly 100 million people and they collectively account for 169 electoral votes.