Utah could be the first in the nation to have a ‘digital privacy’ law

Posted at 4:18 PM, Dec 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-31 22:16:19-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A state lawmaker has introduced a legislation to create a "digital privacy" law.

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, has filed House Bill 57 that he said would safeguard people's digital communications and information. It would give a legal right to privacy in emails, instant messages and shared files.

"We need to make sure that our digital and our electronic information is protected. Just because it goes through wires, just because it goes in the cloud doesn’t mean we lose an expectation of privacy," he told FOX 13 on Monday.

Rep. Hall said his legislation ensures people don't lose any ownership interest or reasonable expectation of privacy just because it goes through a third party such as Google, Facebook or Dropbox.

The bill would extend existing protections to physical communications to digital ones. If law enforcement or government agencies wanted to see them, they would need to seek a warrant, he said.

The bill has support of civil liberties groups and he has worked to address concerns of some law enforcement agencies, Rep. Hall said. He has previously sought to make it a voter-approved constitutional amendment which faced some pushback in the legislature.

"We have struck a good balance on this bill both protecting the privacy of individuals and making sure people don’t get away with things they shouldn’t be getting away with," he told FOX 13.

The libertarian-leaning think tank Libertas Institute said Rep. Hall's bill appears to be the first of its kind in the nation. The group has endorsed the legislation.

Representatives for Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment because of the New Year's holiday. Lobbyists for the companies on Utah's Capitol Hill told FOX 13 they were watching the bill with interest.

Elizabeth Converse, the director of operations for the Utah Technology Council, a trade group of tech companies, said they were also watching the bill.

"I think we support any time the legislature moves to update laws to make them more current to what people are using in today’s world," she said. "As we become more digital, we need to be cognizant of the fact that all of those laws might not be keeping up with the times."