News & Politics

Wyoming Lawmakers to Consider 'Right to Privacy'

When the Wyoming legislature returns next month, they will consider allowing voters to change the state constitution to allow for a “right to privacy.”

There are 10 other states that recognize such a right, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina and Washington. This is the second time the privacy issue has come up in the Wyoming legislature; the first time the issue was considered, opponents were concerned there wasn’t a specific provision that asserted the public’s right to review information pertaining to the government.

The new proposal specifies that it wouldn’t deprive people of the right to inspect public records or observe government operations except in cases in which the demand for individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.

Wyoming’s Chief Information Officer Flint Waters supports the move towards privacy.

“There’s quite a bit going on in the changes in the ways in which digital technology can gather information,” he said. “Now that we’ve got the ability to have technology monitor around the clock, 80 frames a second, numerous locations. It kind of changes the game a little bit.”

One example of government data collection involves the the police automatically scanning license plates and developing databases of private citizens’ comings and goings. Waters says that such information may be helpful to law enforcement “But when that’s provided by a company that turns around and sells that data, or controls that information, it tells so much about what the citizens are doing that it’s time to make a clear statement on how we value the privacy of citizens.”

An amendment to the state constitution takes  a 2/3 vote by both houses of the legislature before the issue can pass to the voters.