State capitol building.

State capitol building.

The Iowa House has voted to add an amendment to the state constitution that supporters say will offer more protection to the digital records and data Iowans create and store on their smart phones and other electronic devices.

It would force authorities to go to court to gain access to that digital data according to Representative Ken Rizer.

“This protection is necessary to update search and seizure protections to 21st century realities,” Rizer says. “Our constitution coupled with federal and state law all provide elements of protection, but gaping gaps still remain.”

Rizer, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, says after 27 years of service in the Air Force, he is all too familiar with “cyber warfare” and it’s important to ensure the U.S. government cannot access our private email or data without a warrant.

“When the founders of our country and state included search and seizure protections in their 18th and 19th century constitutions, they intended to protect citizens from government reading personal mail or going through personal files without a warrant,” Rizer says. “In the 21st century, Iowans shouldn’t be forced to choose between using new technologies or protecting their privacy.”

The proposal now goes to the Iowa Senate for consideration. If the senate endorses the idea, the next Iowa General Assembly would have to approve it again in 2017 or 2018 before Iowans would be able to vote to change the state constitution.

Senator Steve Sodders, Democrat from State Center, says it appears to him the state constitution already requires warrants when authorities seek access to electronic records.

“My experience is we’ve got to get search warrants for everything,” says Sodders, who is also a Marshall County Deputy Sheriff. “Let’s say we do a drug raid and we take the phone for evidence, I’ve got to have special language either within the current warrant or I have to stop and get another warrant to specifically saying we can go in there and capture that information and download the information, so you’ve got to have a warrant.”

Sodders suggests Rizer is chasing a privacy problem that may not be there.

Privacy issues are being hotly debated nationally as Apple is refusing to abide by a warrant order the company to unlock the iPhone used by one of the terrorists who killed 14 people at a holiday party in California.