EspañolOn Wednesday, the New Hampshire House and Senate both unanimously approved a bill prohibiting government officials from obtaining information from electronic devices, including cell phones, without a warrant signed by a judge. The law goes into effect pending the signature of Governor Maggie Hassan.
The purpose of the bill is to protect the individual privacy of citizens, making it clear that obtaining information from any electronic device without a warrant is prohibited in the state of New Hampshire.
“The bill was approved. It is not perfect, but taking the political climate into account, it was the best we could do,” expressed State Representative John Hikel.
With regard to the likelihood of Governor Hassan signing the bill into law, Hinkel was cautious, noting that if Republicans are able to regain the majority in the House, many changes could be made.
If approved, the state law will present a legal conflict with current surveillance programs run by the federal government.
The bill defines “government entities” as all federal, state, district, and local agencies, including judicial agencies or departments, committees, or individuals who work for any of these agencies. As such, the language of the bill prohibits the collection of data in the state of New Hampshire by federal agencies that engage in mass surveillance.
Mike Maharrey, communication’s director for the Tenth Amendment Center, said that by including restrictions on federal agencies in this bill it will generate two significant effects: “It will force federal courts to take a position in regards to the constitutionality of federal mass surveillance programs because the federal law cannot be applied if it is not consistent with the principles stated in the constitution. Also, it highlights the fact that each state has, in fact, a role to play in rejecting unconstitutional surveillance programs, whether they are state or federal programs.”
Maharrey further stated that the government does not have the right to know if people “do not have anything to hide.”
The proposed law in New Hampshire is a reaction to the surveillance activity of US federal agencies being carried out on millions of people without a warrant, and often without evidence or suspicion of criminal activity.
The National Security Agency (NSA) can locate, track, and collect data from cell phones both within the United States and in foreign countries. According to a Washington Post article from December 2013, the NSA tracks and stores the data records of five billion cell phones every day.
This not only helps to identify where people are, but also with whom they associate. The NSA uses certain techniques to map relationships between a given cell phone owner and the people on the other side of the line, even when these devices are not being used.
Organizations like Nullify NSA invite people to support the new legislation that has been approved in the New Hampshire Congress and to take action in defending themselves from federal surveillance agencies. They also encourage people to call Governor Hassan’s office and request that she sign the bill into law.
— OffNow.org (@OffNowProject) April 14, 2014
With regard to NSA data collection, Shane Trejo, a member of Nullify NSA, stated: “The metadata tells the whole life story of a person, and its collection is an extremely invasive and illegal policy, according to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This data collection is a dagger through the heart of the Fourth Amendment.”
As for the bill that was approved in New Hampshire, Trejo said the law will stop data collection without a warrant and prevent government agencies from sharing this information, “limiting the effectiveness of federal spying.”
In 2007, the NSA launched a program called PRISM with the purpose of collecting millions of pictures, emails, phone calls, and other data by having direct access to Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft servers.