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ACLU takes privacy fight to the states

ACLU takes privacy fight to the states

The American Civil Liberties Union is taking its privacy fight to the states. 

The group on Wednesday organized local lawmakers in 16 states to introduce a range of privacy legislation — related to student and employee rights as well as protection from government surveillance. 

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The lobbying group said it is putting a stronger focus on state-based laws because Congress has been “largely asleep at the switch.”

“This movement is about seizing control over our lives. Everyone should be empowered to decide who has access to their personal information,” ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement. 

Various billssome of which have been around for years,were introduced in D.C. and a host of states, from New Mexico and Nebraska to Virginia and New York.

Many measures focus on student privacy and would require explicit permission before student data is used or shared for non-educational purposes. Others would prevent employers from requiring job applicants to hand over social media information. 

Legislation in places like Nebraska, Michigan and Illinois would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using so-called stingrays, which can track a person’s location. 

Lawmakers in five states introduced some form of email privacy reform, which would explicitly require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before forcing Internet companies to turn over customer emails and electronic communications. 

Federal legislation to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act has massive support in Congress, but has failed to move in recent years amid concern from some federal agencies. 

Advocacy groups could see state-based reform as more attainable after successfully pushing a California law last October, which contains some of the strongest electronic privacy language in the country. It requires law enforcement to get a warrant to access digital data as well as location information and metadata.