Wyoming Weighs Privacy Amendment

Nov 12, 2014

Senator Chris Rothfuss
Credit Wyoming Legislature

State lawmakers this week will hear proposals to add an individual right to privacy to the Wyoming Constitution.

The Digital Information Privacy Task Force is made up of lawmakers and Wyoming citizens. Task Force Chairman Senator Chris Rothfuss says the proposed amendment would limit what information Wyoming could compile about its citizens. The goal is to ensure privacy rights aren’t ignored in service of other state interests.

Rothfuss says the package of proposed bills his task force will present to legislators on Friday would do things like prohibit Wyoming from selling motorist information to marketers, as some other states do.

But one critic worries the amendment could limit the public’s ability to hold government officials accountable. Cheyenne attorney Bruce Moats points to situations like those where a lawmaker is arrested.

“The concern there is just the uncertainty about how that would be applied in practice here to this information that government possesses that may have to do with an individual, but may have to do with what the government is up to,” Moats says. “A public official’s encounters with law enforcement really should be something the public should know about.”

Rothfuss says the striking the balance between rights to privacy and to public information in such instances would remain up to the courts. He says he simply wants to follow other states in making privacy a priority.

The task force will present its proposals to the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee. If the Legislature endorses the privacy amendment in its next session, the measure would go before Wyoming voters for approval.