Wyoming Legislature update
by Representative Albert Sommers, House District 20
August 16, 2014
Friday, August 15, 2014:
Hello Sublette County,
On July 31 and August 1st I attended a meeting of the Task Force on Digital Information Privacy in Lander. This consists of members of the public who are engaged in technology fields, the Director of Enterprise Technology Services, and four legislators, including myself. Our mission is to investigate whether citizens’ personal identifiable information is properly secured in state agencies, and to look at all the issues surrounding data privacy and security.
The first day we heard from Flint Waters, Director of Enterprise Technology Services, the agency charged with providing computer purchasing and support for Wyoming state government. He talked about the state’s obligation to protect data, but there is very little in Wyoming law that currently requires agencies to utilize best practices when handling citizen information. Two federal laws do govern privacy of health and student information. In today’s society, with everyone accessing the internet for work and play, it is essential that our state maintain its citizens’ data in a secure fashion.That should begin by making sure we collect no more data than is necessary and keep it no longer than necessary.
We heard from various state agencies on their data security practices, and how the Public Records Act interfaces with the concept of privacy. How do we ensure open government and individual privacy? Rob Aylward (CIO for the University of Wyoming), Andy Corbin (IT Supervisor for Wyoming Community College Commission), Jenny McCalla (Wyoming Department of Workforce Services), and Michael Strom (Wyoming State Archives) all presented on the topic of privacy and data security. Rob Aylward explained that national corporations were asking the University for their Student Directory Information, which includes student e-mail addresses, phone numbers, home address, university address, and major. This allows companies to direct-market students based upon this information, and the University felt obligated to provide this data based upon its interpretation of the Public Records Act. We had a primer on the Public Records Act of Wyoming by Ryan Schelhaas, Senior Assistant Attorney General.
On the second day, we heard from Jim Angell and Bob Bonnar of the Wyoming Press Association on the importance of the Public Records Act, and on the intricacies of how to interpret and apply it. The important message during this discussion was that material subject to the Act has to be made available to the public, but the governmental entity is not obligated to deliver it to the public. The law states, "All public records shall be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times, during the business hours of the state entity or political subdivision, except as provided in this act…"
We also heard from Byron Oedekoven, Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, on how Fourth Amendment applies to search and seizure of personal digital information. This included discussion of the recent US Supreme Court ruling, which in a unanimous decision declared the vast amount of data contained on modern cell phones must be protected from routine search and seizure without a warrant.
We reviewed two bills the Task Force may bring forward. One bill would prohibit an employer from requesting or requiring access to a social media account of an employee or prospective employee. Under what conditions should an employer be able to look at an employee’s social media devices, such as smart phones and tablets? The other bill would provide authority for personal representatives to take control of decedents' online social accounts. When someone dies, who has the right to access or close that person’s Facebook or Google Cloud accounts? We are continuing to examine and refine these bills.
The most interesting piece of legislation we discussed was a Montana constitutional amendment dealing with privacy. This constitutional amendment states, "The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest." This constitutional amendment sums up my belief on privacy, and I hope Wyoming moves to adopt it. US Supreme Court Justice John Roberts stated, in their ruling on cell phones, "The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought."
If you have any comment or concerns about privacy and data security please let me know. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.