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Missouri May Amend Its Constitution To Require Warrant For Digital Searches

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A proposed state constitutional amendment could grant residents of Missouri stronger digital privacy protections. The amendment passed the state’s legislature, and will be voted on by the general electorate in August.

The amendment to Missouri’s constitution would delete a current section of the document, and replace it with a new section that has amended wording. Here’s the new text:

Section 15. That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes, effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be, nor without probably cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.

Here’s what the ballot will say in August:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?”

I have a sneaking suspicion that that will prove popular. If I am reading Missouri law correctly, only a simple majority needs to vote in favor of the amendment for it to pass. So, the bar here for enaction isn’t as high as you might have thought.

State Representative Paul Curtman was quoted in MissouriNet saying that the vote could have national impact: “If the people of Missouri are concerned enough about this issue that they’re willing to adjust our Constitution to make sure that they further secure their own rights of electronic privacy and communications, the rest of the country should take note of that.”

While government at the federal level tries to find its keys when it comes to digital privacy and the like, it’s nice to see that states, those laboratories of democracy, are forging ahead on the issue.

IMAGE BY FLICKR USER CALEB ZAHND UNDER CC BY 2.0 LICENSE (IMAGE HAS BEEN CROPPED)