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Should emails, texts be protected by the Constitution? Proposed bill says yes

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Is all your private data – such as emails and text messages – protected from a warrantless search?

The Minnesota legislature is tackling that very question with a new bill that, if passed, would amend the state's constitution.

It would clarify that personal data is protected by the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which forbids the unreasonable search and seizure of "persons, houses, papers, and effects."

The bill is providing some rare common ground on the state's political scene – it's backed by a number of Republicans, Democrats, and representatives from a diverse coalition of Minnesota activist groups, including the ACLU, the Tea Party and Occupy Minnesota, according to The UpTake.

Will it pass?

The website says the proposal will be taken up by the Government Operations Committee this Thursday. Click here to read the bill and check its status.

Despite the support, Star Tribune reports there could be an uphill battle in the state senate, where DFL Sen. Ron Latz – chairman of the Judiciary Committee, through which the bill would have to pass – refused to give the proposed legislation a hearing last month.

Latz, according to the paper, says data privacy questions have already been resolved by the courts.

But the bill's backers are continuing their push. At a press conference this morning (where many of the supporters were gathered), bill co-author Rep. Peggy Scott said she believes the amendment "would bring a 21st Century look at the Fourth Amendment to the constitution."

The Andover Republican suggested that if smartphones and tablets were around when the constitution was being written, the founding fathers “would have included a person’s technological communications" in the Fourth Amendment.

WCCO notes that if the bill is passed, Minnesota voters would have the final say on the constitutional change next year.

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