Frustrated by congressional gridlock, legislators in 16 states and the District of Columbia unveiled an array of bills Wednesday aimed at bolstering privacy protections.
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which coordinated the rollout of the bills, argued that state action is necessary because Congress has been “asleep at the switch” on privacy issues. “This movement is about seizing control over our lives. Everyone should be empowered to decide who has access to their personal information,” he said in a statement.
The bills, introduced by Republicans and Democrats in states from Alaska to North Carolina, would limit police surveillance, grant students broader privacy rights, and ensure that employees cannot be forced to provide access to their social-media accounts.
Many of the bills have counterparts on the federal level that have gone nowhere. “Our federal government didn’t take the lead and should have taken the lead,” said Michigan state Rep. Peter Lucido, a Republican who sponsored one of the bills. “But now it left us all to go ahead and fend for ourselves at the state level.”
If enacted, the bills would mark a major shift in policy-making to the states on privacy issues. While California and a few other states have enacted tough privacy laws in recent years, most significant policies have been set on a national level.