Missourians to Vote on Electronic Privacy Constitutional Amendment

Missourians to Vote on Electronic Privacy Constitutional Amendment

The law would cover all electronic communications and data and add them to 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph police say nearly every investigation they are involved in has some kind of electronic information that can help them crack a case.

However, some lawmakers want to make authorities get that information legally.

"You have to have probable cause in order to look at someone's papers and effects, said 34th Dist. Sen. Rob Schaaf. "It's a guarantee of the 4th amendment."

Schaaf is supporting an amendment to the state constitution to extend search and seizure protections to electronic data, including that collected from computers, laptops and even cell phones.

"People used to just carry briefcases full of documents," Schaaf said. "Now pretty much everything that you need is on your cell phone. Your text messages, your emails, your contact list and documents of all types. I, for example, as a physician, might have patients sensitive communications on there."

Schaaf says many of the revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have made people more sensitive about privacy issues.

"I never dreamed of living in a world where police could have high speed cameras that collect my license number and put it on a database marking the place and time where my car was and it stays in the database forever," Schaaf said.

Schaaf hopes Missouri's vote in August is just the first step in national protections.

"We believe there will be such a vote to pass this the national media will take note," he said. "Then, other states will follow suit and hopefully then the federal government."

St. Joseph police want everyone to know that while a warrant is currently not necessary to gather electronic information while investigating a case, it is still their policy for their Electronic Crimes Unit to ask for a warrant before searching computers or cell phones.

Schaaf says in the next couple weeks organizers will begin a campaign to educate voters about the importance of the constitutional amendment.

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