Our View: Electronic data protections

Tuesday , March 25, 2014 - 1:33 PM

Editorial Board, Standard-Examiner

Utah legislators deserve credit for passing House Bill 128, sponsored by state Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden/North Ogden, which requires law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before gathering data from mobile phones, laptops and similar electronic devices. It was pleasant to witness that the bill passed both chambers of the Utah Legislature with only one dissenting vote.

Delving into transmitted or stored data, or getting a location from the electronic device, is an intrusion into the privacy rights of an individual. It is wrong for any investigative body to assume it has the right to snoop into the personal affairs of individuals. Nevertheless, that assumption has gained steam since the 2001 terror attacks. It seems that every day we hear of privacy rights being violated by the NSA, or CIA, for example. Wilcox’s bill is necessary to make sure that law enforcement does not follow the same bad example of federal agencies. When this information is tapped into without a search warrant being authorized, it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment. When information is mass gathered electronically, the information from persons not under investigation must be disposed of and not collected by authorities.

Requiring a search warrant to gather this information will not hamper investigations. If an individual, or a group, is under suspicion by law enforcement, then the tools are available to collect data from electronic devices. To obtain a search warrant protects our rights. Rights must not be ignored in a criminal investigation, or the integrity, and legitimacy, of the investigation is harmed.

The advances in technology during the past two generations are simply mind-boggling. Advertisers, for example, can pinpoint an individual for specific ads on a webpage. And much more than that can be done. In the midst of this boom, we can’t ignore our privacy rights.

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