The ACLU recently published an interactive map on the web that categorizes states based on the strength of privacy laws enacted. This was based on four categories of privacy laws which included law enforcement access to electronic communications, location tracking, automatic license plate readers, and domestic surveillance drones.
It was noted that just because there is a state law regarding privacy protections in one or more of the listed areas, it does not automatically translate in to stronger privacy rights. For example, Texas has drone laws, but these laws are insufficient and may even be harmful to individuals.
According to the ACLU’s map, Utah was the winner as the state with the greatest privacy protection. It is ironic that Utah is one of the most conservative states.
It is often thought that, from a libertarian standpoint, Republicans are stronger on economic issues and Democrats are stronger on issues of civil liberties. So it is interesting to note that heavily Democratic states such as California and New York did not rank well for privacy protections. But it is also fair to note that there are some Republican/ conservative states that did not rank well either.
Decentralization is Our Only Hope
In a country of over 300 million people, it is almost impossible to significantly change anything in Washington DC. It is even hard when there are millions of people trying to change the same thing.
Washington DC is run by lobbyists and corporate interests. It is also run by bureaucracies. It is quite difficult to change this. I have pointed out in the past that is almost impossible to get rid of the National Security Agency (NSA), barring some kind of major federal bankruptcy. Even then, I’m not so sure.
But there is a little bit more hope in seeing that many states are passing laws to provide greater privacy protections from government. This must continue. I always say that if you can’t change a local or state law, then there is no way you are going to make it happen on the national stage, assuming it is a change that would somehow reduce government power.
One thing we will eventually need to see are state laws with some teeth against the federal government. We can’t put the cart before the horse though. We must see strong state laws against government spying that are first enforced at the state and local levels. When this becomes more widespread, then we may begin to see some stronger stands against Washington DC.
One possibility is that states begin to invoke the idea of nullification. State laws should be passed that essentially nullify federal laws (or actions) because they are unconstitutional and a clear violation of liberty. Federal spying with no warrants is not authorized by the U.S. Constitution.
The big question comes if the states actually try to enforce this. What are the states going to do to stop a federal government that is constantly spying?
It is probably not a coincidence that Utah was ranked as having the best privacy protection laws when the NSA has a huge data center in the state. This is where your emails and other electronic communications are being stored.
There are already movements that are attempting to get Utah legislators to shut off the water supply going to the data center, as it supposedly uses over one million gallons of water every day. While I think this movement is probably premature, it is an interesting idea. But for the Utah legislature to take a stand this big against the powerful U.S. government, it is going to take some major support from the citizenry.
As technology continues to advance, the NSA is only going to get worse. We will live in a world of virtually no privacy. The good news is that free individuals and groups of individuals will also use new technologies in ways to fight back and make the NSA’s job more difficult.