West Virginia Record

Thursday, November 21, 2019

West Virginia ranks toward middle in privacy laws nationwide

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By Kyla Asbury | Nov 5, 2019

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CHARLESTON — West Virginia is ranked close to the middle when it comes to privacy laws, according to a recent report by Comparitech.

Paul Bischoff, an editor at Comparitech, said privacy laws are important, but that most states didn't have more than 10 of the 20 criteria the organization used to rate the states. California checked off the most criteria, getting 15 out of 20 criteria.

"West Virginia is really in the middle as far as privacy laws go," Bischoff said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "West Virginia got 4 out of 20 in our criteria. Most states got less than 10. It just means that people in West Virginia might not have as many rights to privacy as they think they do—especially online."

Bischoff said in West Virginia, companies can use their data and share it with whomever they want.

"There are no laws requiring companies or the government to dispose of data once it is no longer used for the purpose it was collected," Bischoff said. "For example, you enter a Google search and Google can keep that search on file, along with your name, as long as it wants to, even though it likely won’t."

Bischoff said these sorts of laws would empower people and hold companies accountable.

Of the 20 criteria, West Virginia only has laws protecting data for students Kindergarten through 12th grade; shield laws to protect journalists with a state-enacted shield law; shield laws to protect journalists with a court-recognized privilege; and social media privacy laws for employers, according to the report.

Bischoff said West Virginia should work on enacting laws involving biometric data and protecting data that isn't normally protected, such as data from Fitbit, smart appliances and cars.

"That data that tracks wherever you go," Bischoff said. "West Virginia also does not have a law that protects students from having to share social media profiles on-demand with schools."

While California ranked the highest on the chart, Wyoming ranked the lowest.

The report states that while not all states have shield laws to protect journalists from exposing their sources, Wyoming is the only state that doesn’t even have a court precedent for doing so.

The report also points out that companies aren't required to dispose of users’ personal data after a set period of time, and that employers are not barred from forcing employees to hand over passwords to social media accounts.

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