ST. PAUL, Minn. (Feb. 24, 2020) – Last week, a Minnesota House committee passed a bill that would require police to get a search warrant before requiring an individual or service provider to disclose electronic data in most cases. Passage of the bill would not only help protect privacy in Minnesota; it would also hinder one aspect of the federal surveillance state.
Rep. John Lesch (D-St. Paul) introduced House Bill 3010 (HF3010) on Feb. 11. The legislation would require all government entities to obtain a search warrant before they could require disclosure of electronic communication information from an individual or a service provider.
The bill includes two exceptions to the warrant requirement. Government agencies could require disclosure of electronic data with “valid consent from one authorized to give it,” or if there are exigent circumstances where there is a danger to the life or physical safety of an individual.
HF3010 would implement strict reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies engaging in electronic data collection.
On Feb. 20, the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy passed HF3010.
IMPACT ON FEDERAL SURVEILLANCE PROGRAMS
The feds can share and tap into vast amounts of information gathered at the state and local level through fusion centers and a system known as the “information sharing environment” or ISE. As a result, data collected by local police often ends up permanently stored in federal databases. Limits on electronic data collection at that state and local level mean there is less data for the feds to tap into.
Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”
Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.
By placing restrictions on data collection, state and local governments limit the electronic information available that the feds can access.
In a nutshell, without state and local cooperation, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. Enactment of HF3010 would strike a major blow to the surveillance state and would be a win for privacy.
HF3010 now goes to the full House for further consideration.
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