orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

May 21, 2013

Texas Tries to Bring Constitutional Right to Privacy to Digital Age

Special to The Leader
The Orange Leader

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate is expected to vote today on a bill that supporters say will help preserve privacy in the digital age.



One part of the legislation, Senate Bill 1052, would require law enforcement to secure a probable-cause warrant before using cell-phone tracking technology to follow suspects or get location information.



"Right now, there's a loophole in the way that warrants work in Texas," said Matt Simpson, policy strategist for the ACLU of Texas, "Detailed information about where, say for example, I've been based on what cell phone towers my phone uses while I move around could be gotten with a secret subpoena by law enforcement, directly from a cell phone company."



The bill also would require a probable-cause warrant for law enforcement to access the content of email messages from cell phones or Internet service providers.



These changes are needed, Simpson said, so that Texas' policy on personal privacy keeps pace in the 21st century.



"A lot of this is just an update to the law that follows technology," he said. "No one ever really imagined, for example, a lot of our information would be in a 'cloud' somewhere, stored. It's almost conceptually a new way of thinking about information - and so, not so much making new law, but just updating the Fourth Amendment."



The bill does include emergency provisions so that data requests by law enforcement can be expedited in certain cases, including life-threatening circumstances.



More information, including the bill's text, is online at openstates.org.