Runestad: Protecting privacy in a digital age

state Rep. Jim Runestad

In this day and age, technology is an integral part of our daily lives. We use cellphones and computers for daily communication—checking and sending emails, updating social media statuses, sending text messages and so on. With so much private information now in electronic format, it is incumbent upon public servants to protect privacy rights in this digital age. Legal protections must keep up with the technology to ensure the protection of every individual’s personal electronic property.

There have been several cases throughout the years involving the invasion of electronic data and computer search histories that clearly violated personal property rights, and it will certainly happen again in the future. Currently, the state Constitution has not been updated to reflect the increasing use and presence of technology in our everyday lives.

I recently introduced House Joint Resolution N, which would make a search warrant a requirement to access a person’s electronic data or communications. It is important that the legal protections keep up with the technology and this resolution will help to do that.

HJR N will make a simple change to the state Constitution by adding the words “electronic data and communications” to a section that will protect personal electronic properties in a legal issue. If passed by the Legislature, the decision would ultimately go to voters during the Nov. 2016 general election.

This resolution is not aimed at making the job of law enforcement officials more difficult but at making sure that individual privacy is not unjustly violated. Last year in Missouri, a similar constitutional amendment passed a statewide ballot initiative by an overwhelming 75 percent margin.

With rapid and limitless growth of technology within our society, it is imperative that we adapt laws to protect the rights of the public. Information in an electronic format deserves the same privacy protections as our personal papers and possessions. In the digital age, privacy is under attack like never before. We must be bold in our efforts to protect the privacy of Michigan residents before it is too late.

My resolution was introduced on March 26 and was moved to the House Committee on Criminal Justice. I have received support from 27 colleagues on both sides of the aisle and I look forward to working with the rest to move this resolution through the legislative process.

State Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, represents the 44th District.