Dewhurst Looks to Beat Back NSA Snooping and Big Data With Privacy Protection Agenda

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst unveiled his interim charges to the Senate Committee on State Affairs Friday, and they are, to say the least, pretty ambitious. They read like red meat for the paranoid-hacker constituency at times, but they also include the bones of some common-sense privacy protections.

And they may appeal to a broader electorate, which is probably why Dewhurst is staking out a position as bulwark against Big Brother. He's offered up a slate of nascent policy prescriptions for the legislature to study during the off-season. We'll see how much our growing institutional distrust moves the needle next year.

Although I'm sure this is something the committee will explore, it isn't exactly clear how the state legislature intends to place limits on the federal government's warrantless search and seizure of data from wireless providers and electronic devices, approved by a super-secret FISA court. It's heartening to see his interest in tackling the perhaps even more pervasive monitoring engaged in by the commercial sector.

"Ongoing revelations of the NSA's domestic spying and increasingly frequent news of online security breaches appropriately have Texans on edge," Dewhurst said during a recent press briefing. "Our essential American freedoms include the right to live without warrantless searches of our private information or snooping on essential rights like gun ownership. As we have done throughout our history, Texas must lead the way in defending individual freedom."

Dewhurst wants the committee to examine whether purchase-pattern tracking of gun owners should be prohibited, and to look shield our once anonymous data from being repackaged, reidentified and sold. He also outlines some potential transparency reforms to allow Texans to see what data is being collected, and by whom.

You can read about it here, wherein you will find substantive policy issues that have nothing -- near as I can tell -- to do with abortion, Obamacare or the War on Christmas.

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Brantley Hargrove