The ACLU of Virginia promotes responsible uses of technology that enhance privacy and freedom, while opposing government programs and technical developments that diminish individual privacy, undermine our freedoms and move us closer to a surveillance society.
Unlike many other states, the Constitution of Virginia does not explicitly protect the privacy of Virginians. The language in our Virginia Constitution does not track the search and seizure language of the Federal Constitution and explicitly prohibits only general warrants. Although Virginia courts have interpreted the Constitution of Virginia to provide the same protections as the Fourth Amendment, the difference in the language means courts could adopt a different interpretation at any time. And, while it is true that federal, state, and local police are all bound by the Federal Constitution, the reality is that Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has not yet caught up with modern technology, putting every Virginian’s privacy at risk.
Our privacy protections are not keeping pace with new technologies. Currently, the government asserts broad authority to track innocent people’s movements, purchases, reading habits, and sometimes even private conversations, all without a warrant. The U.S. Constitution recognizes that citizens in a democracy require privacy in their “persons, houses, papers, and effects” if they are to be free. Those values should be continued into the modern age. Virginia residents should know that the government is working to protect their privacy, not violate it.
Did you know?
The government argues that the Fourth Amendment protects information that you keep in your desk, but not information that you keep online, like old emails or pictures.