Montana: The Privacy State

Every day our world becomes more and more digitally connected. Whether it’s for work or play, our electronic footprint is dramatically increasing in size. As our lives become more connected to the digital world with exciting new technologies, it’s crucial that our civil liberties are uploaded with us. Over the last decade, a handful of states have made important legislative changes with this end in mind.

The most recent victory comes out of Montana with 82% of its electorate voting in favor of constitutional amendment C-48, which requires the government to obtain a search warrant prior to accessing someone’s electronic data and communications.

Prior to its arrival on the ballot, the amendment began with Senator Kenneth Bogner’s Senate Bill 203, which received unanimous support in the Senate and overwhelming support in the House. It also works hand-in-hand with Representative Katie Sullivan’s House Bill 479, which implemented similar protections in Montana’s state statute. Thanks to the work of these legislators, Montana is the first state to require the government to obtain a search warrant before accessing Montanans’ electronic data in their state code and constitution.

This success adds to Montana’s impressive history of privacy reforms beginning in 2013 when lawmakers passed House Bill 603, protecting the location data of an individual’s electronic devices, alongside Senate Bill 196 which prohibits warrantless drone surveillance. In 2017, the passage of House Bill 148 meant greater protection for online communications while in 2021, the passage of House Bill 602 guaranteed privacy protections for private genetic databases. 

Over the past decade, Montana has proven itself a leader in effectively protecting privacy in the digital age. 

Frontier Institute and Americans for Prosperity Montana proved instrumental in ushering many of these reforms across the finish line, and, as a result of this work, Montanans now enjoy updated privacy protections. 

We’re excited to see the momentum — already seen in Michigan, Missouri, and Utah — break through into other states. Digital privacy is an issue Libertas Institute has researched extensively, and we stand ready to help your state pursue this opportunity as we have with Montana. For groups or legislators in other states looking to work on the issue, we’d love to help!