Villasenor Illustrates Asymmetry in Data Privacy Laws

Public Policy Professor John Villasenor co-authored an article with UC Berkeley Professor Rebecca Wexler describing the dangers of new data privacy laws and their unintended contribution to wrongful convictions. They explain how the “growing volume of data gathered and stored by mobile network providers, social media companies, and location-based app providers has quite rightly spurred interest in updating privacy laws.” However, these laws often favor prosecutors in legal cases, making it easier for them to deploy state power to search for and seize data, while defense attorneys struggle to access the same data using subpoenas. The article for the Brookings Institution’s TechTank blog describes a “fundamental asymmetry”: “While law enforcement can compel the production of data that can help establish guilt, a defendant will have a much harder time compelling the production of data that establish innocence.” The authors recommend drafting laws that accommodate “the legitimate needs of both law enforcement and defense investigations.”


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