Utah Has Now Banned Warrantless Electronic Data Searches

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In a move that is sure to be celebrated by those who value digital privacy, Utah has banned warrantless searches of electronic data. This now means that the state has the strongest digital privacy laws in the nation. As per a Forbes report, April 16, 2019.

Historic Act

There has probably never been more discussion around the concept of data privacy than there is in the present day, and for good reason. There are companies and organizations that are constantly suffering data breaches, and more people than ever are worried about whether their information is truly safe.

Utah is now the first state in the United States to pass legislation of this nature. HB 57, or the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act, means that state law enforcement cannot access the digital or transmitted data of a certain individual. This includes search engines, social media, and email providers. The act also adds the phrases “remote computing services” and “electronic communications services” in its language. All of this data is now protected by the Fourth Amendment.

HB 57 actually goes a step further than prevention and appears to hold the state government accountable for the actions that it takes as well. Specifically, the act requires agencies to notify owners that their data has been searched within fourteen days. The resulting digital data can also not be used as evidence in court, in what many consider to be one of the most important parts of the act.

Exceptions Exist

For those who might think that this legislation goes a bit too far in terms of preventing law enforcement from investigating violent criminals, there are exceptions. Specifically, state law enforcement can obtain subscriber data or location-tracking information if there is an “imminent risk” of death or serious physical injury.

Other situations in which it may be allowed includes when law enforcement is investigating other severe crimes such as human trafficking and kidnapping.

The act went through five various versions before finally being approved. It was also approved unanimously, as not a single individual voted against it. It was also notably backed by the ACLU of Utah. For those who might not be aware, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is an American nonprofit organization that is dedicated to defending individual rights.

The Libertas Institute, a think tank dedicated to “removing obstacles that limit freedom” in Utah, was instrumental in passing the bill, as well. was  HB 57 is expected to take effect in mid-may 2019.

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