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Iowa’s leaders can protect privacy

PrivacyBy Steve Sherman
Contributing Writer

 

Privacy is central to the debates going on this year in Washington and Iowa’s congressional delegation can have a big impact on the future of privacy.

Iowa’s own, Senator Chuck Grassley is Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and he wields great power in the Senate. Most of the important issues of the day run through his committee. Whether it is immigration, controversial Obama nominations to the Courts or criminal justice issues, his committee is the place where the great debates of the day start.

Privacy related issues are another important and in need of protection. With all the flashier headlines privacy has a way of getting pushed aside. Right now, a bill titled the LEADS Act, is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee awaiting a hearing. Senator Orrin Hatch, the former chairman of the committee, sponsored the bill, S. 512. This is a bipartisan effort and the bill currently has the support of eight other Senators from both parties. The House bill, H.R. 1174, has the sponsored support of over 70 representatives. This privacy protection idea is gaining momentum but it needs the public to care.

Here’s the skinny. Let’s protect the data. The bill would require government officials to get access to electronic data on the same basis as other material that is held in non-electronic form. In essence, this legislation would mandate that the government would need a warrant for data stored in the cloud and stored abroad by domestic companies. For law enforcement to get access to data stored outside the U.S., the request must either belong to a U.S. citizen or the government would have to use a mutual assistance treaty for access to the data.

Oh yeah, and let’s protect the emails. This legislation also puts in law the idea that your emails have privacy protections after six months. This change is needed because when the original law was written limiting privacy to six months for electronic communications, citizens had a different understanding of how they use email and the need for some legal protections to attach to emailed communications. Right now the letter of the law does not recognize that right.

A number of conservative movement leaders have authored a letter to Senator Grassley and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. In the letter, groups including Americans for Tax Reform and the Institute for Liberty argue, “the legislation will protect the privacy of American citizens, promote cross-border data flow and our global trade agenda, and provide the tools law enforcement needs.” Now is the time for privacy to be an important issue.

Sen. Grassley has been a great leader of Iowans and in the Senate. He has the power to call for a hearing to discuss this important issue. Lately, the media appears to be obsessed with the flags of the past. It doesn’t matter if you like the Stars and Bars or not…present day Iowans and all Americans should have their privacy, especially electronically.

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Steve Sherman of North Liberty is a writer, radio commentator and a former Iowa House Republican candidate. Contact at steve@sccsherman.com