Utah Bans Police From Searching Digital Data Without a Warrant

A major win for digital privacy has been realized as Utah becomes the first state in the US to ban warrantless searches of electronic data. Utah is a thriving home to many major data centers for tech companies, so the new law could have a major impact on the industry as well as the average person.  

The Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act (HB 57) forces law enforcement in Utah to obtain a court issued search warrant to access a person’s transmitted or stored digital data. The act ensures that third-party “electronic communications service” or “remote computing service” are protected under the Fourth Amendment and its equivalent in Utah.

HB 57 also contains provisions for government transparency. In most cases, if a warrant is executed, the owner of the data must be notified within 14 days that their data has been searched. More importantly HB 57 will prevent the use of illegally obtained digital data by the government as evidence in court.

Law enforcement is still allowed to obtain location-tracking information or subscriber data without a warrant if there’s an “imminent risk” of death, serious injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or human trafficking.

Backed by the ACLU and the Libertas Institute, the act went through five different versions before it was finally approved last month. It is slated to take effect in May.



Photo: “Two Choppers” by Mike Renlund is licensed under CC BY 2.0