Digital Privacy Task Force

Can Wyo protect personal data in techno era?

Digital privacy task force faces broad scope of work

Witnesses testify via Google Hangout; next meeting may be streamed

This week the Wyoming Legislature’s Task Force on Digital Information Privacy decided to develop legislation that will require the state and local public agencies to protect private data of Wyoming residents that the agencies hold in electronic formats. The new Task Force, which held its first meeting in Casper June 19, also decided to develop standards regulating law enforcement’s access to a person’s electronic data, including possibly requiring a warrant to search an electronic device confiscated in an arrest. The task force also agreed to review two pieces of legislation that failed in the 2014 session but were assigned as interim topics to the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee. One of those measures aims to establish the privacy rights of employees who use company-owned electronic devices – such as protecting social media or bank account passwords – while fairly assuring an employer the right to make certain a company-owned device is used appropriately by a worker. Technology has developed so rapidly that federal and state laws simply are not keeping up, according to a representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties in the digital world. In the meeting, the first testimony was from one of the task force’s own members. Flint Waters, the chief information officer for Wyoming’s Department of Enterprise Technology Services, outlined current state practices for handling data and noted they are based on administrative decisions rather being spelled out in law. The state, he said, needs to develop standards so its management of personal data will not depend upon the person who holds his position. He noted Microsoft officials compare the current tide of data “to the raindrop” while the next decade will flood society with “the ocean” of data. The EFF’s Adi Kamdar suggested there may be a need for an independent agency to oversee use of data and technology, such as automated license plate readers and facial recognition technology that when combined can reveal great detail about any person’s life and daily activities. Carl Szabo of NetChoice, a trade association that includes some of the biggest operators on the Internet, including eBay, PayPal, AOL, and Google, said the task force should learn first what laws already exist to protect consumers from fraud and other perils, and how users can employ existing technological services and tools to protect their private data themselves. He said policymakers should be more concerned about the use of information rather than the collection of information. The task force includes four legislators and four people appointed by the executive branch. Sen. Chris Rothfuss is chairman. At the end of the meeting, Sen. Cale Case said his greatest concern was the situation noted by Waters. “The state does not have an affirmative obligation to protect the information we do have,” he said. He and other task force members agreed that developing language to impose such obligation should be a high priority. With cooperation from Waters’ agency and LSO, the meeting Thursday was considered a “Beta test” of using technology such as Google Hangout to bring witnesses to the meeting. Kamdar spoke from San Francisco. Szabo said he was in an airport lounge. And committee member Even Brande, president of Handel Information Technologies, Inc. of Laramie, likewise was traveling. Brande testified via broadband  about his company’s methods of protecting the personal data of state social services clients. Rothfuss said it may be possible to make the next meeting available to the public via live streaming. The task force will meet in Lander July 31 and August 1. The location remains virtual at this point.

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