Privacy SOS

How about it, Massachusetts?

by Gavi Wolfe, Legislative Counsel, ACLU of Massachusetts

Front page, above the fold, the New York Times tells it like it is with this headline:

No U.S. Action, So States Move on Privacy Law

In other words, despite this year’s jaw-dropping revelations about domestic spying and strong public concern that existing laws are inadequate to protect privacy online, gridlock in Washington has made it hard to pass privacy protections—so some states are taking the lead instead.

Massachusetts needs to get in on that game.

As the article says:

Over two dozen privacy laws have passed this year in more than 10 states, in places as different as Oklahoma and California. Many lawmakers say that news reports of widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency have led to more support for the bills among constituents. And in some cases, the state lawmakers say, they have felt compelled to act because of the stalemate in Washington on legislation to strengthen privacy laws.

And here’s more detail from the story about what our privacy-loving friends in other states have accomplished:

•       This year, Texas passed a bill […] that requires warrants for email searches…

•       Eight states […] have passed laws this year limiting the use of drones…

•       Vermont has limited the use of data collected by license plate readers, which are used mostly by police to record images of license plates.

•       In the last couple of years, about 10 states have passed laws restricting employers from demanding access to their employees’ social media accounts.

It’s nice to see all those accomplishments celebrated in one high-profile news article, but it’s not enough. Astute lawmakers in our competitive Commonwealth should realize that we’re falling way behind the curve.

So, how about it Massachusetts?

Great ACLU-backed bills to protect your privacy at the state level are in play at the Massachusetts State House this year. They seeks warrants for electronic communication data, regulation of license plate readers, appropriate limits on drones, and more—but so far, none of them have made it into law yet, the way they have in other states.

So let’s get our game on—and while we’re at it, let’s take a cue from the Red Sox. This season, they came from way behind to win the World Series. To go “from worst to first” on privacy protection, we need to work as hard as they did. We’re halfway through the “regular season” of the legislative calendar, and it’s time to clock a few wins.

We can’t let our tech-leader, birthplace-of-liberty, cradle-of-the-Fourth-Amendment selves get outdone by Texas, Montana, or California. With the New York Times trumpeting other states’ leadership in grappling with digital technologies, it’s time for us to spur Massachusetts to action. Sign the privacy petition! (And if you also want to show your love via facial hair, feel totally free to grow or don a beard.)

Let’s cheer for those victories across the country, but bring home the title. Massachusetts, your privacy parade awaits.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.