Three places where data is on the ballot this November

The data in question is the wireless information transmitted by cars, known as telematics. If the question passes, cars made in 2022 or later and sold in Massachusetts would be required to have standardized, open-access telematics systems accessible to the owner or anyone else. In practice, this means third-party repair shops, who are leading the support for the bill. 

Ultimately, the debate is about consumers’ right to choose who gets to repair their devices. 

Massachusetts passed the country’s first right-to-repair law in 2013, requiring car manufacturers to sell diagnostic data to third-party shops. But that did not include wireless data, which would be covered by this measure. 

Car manufacturers are opposed, saying the measure does not give them enough time to safely update car systems without exposing them to security risks. But each side also has broader support at the national level. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration echoes concerns about cybersecurity, while Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as consumer groups like Consumer Reports, support the legislation. Warren, the state’s senior senator, has called for national right-to-repair legislation. 

The outcome of this ballot initiative will have broad implications outside Massachusetts; the 2013 law led car manufacturers to share their data across the country. 

Michigan: Requiring search warrants for electronic data  

While the ballot initiatives in California and Massachusetts have support and opposition on both sides, voters in Michigan are expected to overwhelmingly support the state’s Proposition 2, which would require a search warrant for electronic data and communications. According to Ballotpedia, the proposal has no known opposition. 

It joins a number of other state regulations explicitly regulating police access to electronic data. In 2014, Missouri became the first state to protect electronic communications from search and seizure, and New Hampshire passed a similar bill in 2018; both were overwhelmingly popular, with support from 80% of voters in Missouri and 75% in New Hampshire. 

In 2019, Utah went a step further, becoming the first state to protect electronic data collected from third parties or remote servers—including  social-media data, search histories, and cell-phone location data—from warrantless access. It also passed unanimously.

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