JUNEAU, Alaska — An Anchorage legislator and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska announced plans Wednesday to support bills to extend digital privacy protections for students and employees.
Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, plans to introduce one bill to prohibit schools from coercing students into providing access to personal social media accounts and another that would put the same limitation on employers.
“This is designed to get the law to catch up to the constitution in the context of our existing culture,” Josephson said.
It’s part of an ACLU effort nationwide to increase data privacy that includes the planned introduction of bills in 16 states to address private email access, devices belonging to students, and social media privacy protections for students and employees.
Organizers have cited a Pennsylvania case in which the parents of a 15-year-old student sued after discovering a school district had been remotely activating cameras in school-owned laptops to watch students at home.
Josephson said the bills he intends to introduce should help state law catch up with evolving technology.
“One can see pretty easily how an email is simply a digital form of a letter and other than that there’s no difference,” Josephson said. “The American people would understand instinctively that, without a warrant, if at my home in Anchorage the police invaded it and went through my drawers, that would be an affront.”
Josephson, whose party is in the minority in Alaska’s Legislature, said he believed he could get bipartisan support for the bills as they, and the ACLU’s efforts to get similar bills passed nationally, are aimed at keeping the government at arm’s length.
“That’s a very conservative philosophy,” he said.
ACLU Alaska Executive Director Joshua Decker said he believed Alaskans would connect with the idea of a right to privacy as it is enshrined in the state’s constitution.
Decker said the ACLU had heard from people in Alaska who had been told by prospective employers that they had to share passwords to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as conditions of employment.
“I think here in Alaska the idea that we should be able to control what we want to share and with whom we want to share it — and that it shouldn’t be open to all of our bosses and teachers and principals — resonates with the state,” he said.