Oregon joins the growing list of states considering legislation to protect private data and end some of the practical effects of NSA spying.

Sen. Larry George (R-Sherwood), Sen. Chip Shields (D-Portland), Rep. John Huffman (R-the Dalles) and Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) together introduced SB1583 earlier this month. The legislation would prohibit any public body in Oregon from obtaining personal electronic data or cell phone location data without a warrant with only a few exceptions. The proposed law would allow for collection of data without a warrant with the individual’s consent, with an employer’s consent if the employer owns the device searched, if probable cause that a person committed a crime and exigent circumstances exist, if the data is necessary to prevent death or injury, or if it is necessary to locate a missing person.

Data collected outside of these parameters would be considered illegally gathered and inadmissible in court.

While some may find the exceptions a cause for concern, passage of SB1583 would represent a major improvement over the status quo in Oregon. Currently, no restrictions on electronic data gathering exist.

The proposed legislation would not only protect Oregonians’ data from collection by overzealous state and local law enforcement agencies, it would also bar the use of information unconstitutionally gathered by federal agencies like the NSA and shared with state and local agencies.

Information uncovered through documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveals the federal government extensively shares illegally gathered private information with state and local law enforcement.

As Reuters reported in August, 2013, the secretive unit of the DEA called the Special Operations Division (SOD) is “funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.” Documents obtained by Reuters show that these cases “rarely involve national security issues,” and that the SOD directs state and local agencies to “conceal how such investigations truly begin.”

SB1583 would effectively end this practical effect of NSA spying.

OffNow.org coalition national campaign lead Shane Trejo called blocking information-sharing with state and local law enforcement an important part the campaign to hinder NSA spying at the state and local level.

“While we’re certainly concerned about the NSA collecting and storing data, because that itself is a violation of our right to privacy, we’re possibly even more concerned with what they do with that data, because that is what could affect our liberty even more. Since we know they’re sharing information collected without warrant with local law enforcement, legislation like this takes a big step towards blocking what the NSA wants to do with all that information.”

Legislatures in New Hampshire, Kansas and Missouri also have bills pending that would restrict collection of personal data. These states join 11 states considering legislation that not only stops the effect NSA data sharing, but also denies material support from the state to the spy agency. That brings the total number of state considering action to thwart NSA spying to 16.

Trejo applauded the effort in Oregon.

“There are four strategic points where states can take action to thwart the effect of NSA spying. Provision of resources, university partnerships, corporate sanctions, and information-sharing. If this bill passes in Oregon, it will end an insidious practical effect of NSA spying, and protect the people of Oregon from state and local overreach too,” he said. “Each bill introduced is an important piece of the puzzle. With states working together, we can and will end the NSA’s lawless operations.”

Mike Maharrey

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