2014 Bills

HB128: Requiring a Search Warrant for Obtaining Cell Phone Data

This bill passed the House 70-1 and passed the Senate unanimously. Visit our Legislative Index to see the final vote rankings for the 2014 general session.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

While many Utahns are concerned with the NSA’s surveillance activities, local law enforcement is currently able to engage in the same bulk data collection behavior. As reported in USA Today, technologies exist that allow the police to obtain the geolocation information of anybody whose cell phone is in the same area.

We find this troubling, and therefore support a new bill by Representative Ryan Wilcox, House Bill 128, that would require a warrant to use this type of technology (except in emergency situations). The bill would also require the police to purge all data on individuals not included as part of the warrant.

The bill goes further than just geolocation data, also protecting “stored data” or “transmitted data.” In other words, a police officer would not be able to access a person’s cell phone (to view or delete a text message, email, photo, video, etc.) during an encounter on the side of the road or anywhere else. In effect, the bill makes clear that electronic devices are part of the “persons, houses, papers, and effects” protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Living in the digital age requires affording electronic data the same protection as physical paper data. This bill is a common sense protection of privacy, and we strongly support it.