California Legislators Pushing Warrant Requirement For All Access To Electronic Information, Including That Obtained By Stingrays

from the strong-nod-towards-long-ignored-rights dept

Good news from California: a bill requiring warrants for Stingray device usage (among other things) has passed out of a Senate committee and is headed for an assembly vote.

Among other sweeping new requirements to enhance digital privacy, the bill notably imposes a warrant requirement before police can access nearly any type of digital data produced by or contained within a device or service.

In other words, that would include any use of a stingray, also known as a cell-site simulator, which can not only used to determine a phone’s location, but can also intercept calls and text messages. During the act of locating a phone, stingrays also sweep up information about nearby phones—not just the target phone.

Despite similar bills being killed by governor vetoes in 2012 and 2013, California legislators are still looking to reform the state’s privacy laws. For one thing, this new bill would put the state’s Electronic Communication Privacy Act in compliance with the Supreme Court’s recent Riley v. California decision (warrant requirement for cell phone searches incident to arrest), as Cyrus Farivar points out.

The committee passed it with a 6-1 vote, suggesting there’s broader support for privacy and Fourth Amendment protections now than there were in the pre-Snowden days. Of course, the usual opposition was on hand to portray those pushing for a warrant requirement as being in favor of sexually abusing children.

[Marty] Vranicar [California District Attorneys Association] told the committee that the bill would “undermine efforts to find child exploitation,” specifically child pornography.

“SB 178 threatens law enforcement’s ability to conduct undercover child porn investigation. the so-called peer-to-peer investigations,” he said. “Officers, after creating online profiles—these e-mails provide metadata that is the key to providing information. This would effectively end online undercover investigations in California.”

Vranicar failed to explain how an officer conducting an ongoing investigation would be unable to obtain a warrant for PTP user data… unless, of course, the “investigation” was nothing more than unfocused trolling or a sting running dangerously low on probable cause. Nothing in the bill forbids officers from using other methods — Fourth Amendment-respecting methods — to pursue those suspected of child exploitation. What it does do is make it more difficult to run stings and honeypots, both of which are already on shaky ground in terms of legality.

Additionally, the bill demands extensive reporting requirements pertaining to government requests for data, and makes an effort to strip away the secrecy surrounding search warrants.

1546.2 (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, any government entity that executes a warrant or wiretap order or issues an emergency request pursuant to Section 1546.1 shall contemporaneously serve upon, or deliver by registered or first-class mail, electronic mail, or other means reasonably calculated to be effective, the identified targets of the warrant, order, or emergency request, a notice that informs the recipient that information about the recipient has been compelled or requested, and states with reasonable specificity the nature of the government investigation under which the information is sought. The notice shall include a copy of the warrant or order, or a written statement setting forth facts giving rise to the emergency.

(b) If there is no identified target of a warrant, wiretap order, or emergency request at the time of its issuance, the government entity shall take reasonable steps to provide the notice, within three days of the execution of the warrant, to all individuals about whom information was disclosed or obtained.

This isn’t blanket coverage or without exceptions. Officers can still offer sworn affidavits in support of sealing to the court, which may then seal warrants on a rolling 90-day basis at its discretion.

Law enforcement will continue to fight this bill, but its opposition seemingly had no effect on the Public Safety Committee. This bill brings the government into a much tighter alignment with the wording and the intent of the Fourth Amendment. The arguments against it demonstrate that the law enforcement community continues to prize efficient policing over the public’s (supposedly) guaranteed rights.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “California Legislators Pushing Warrant Requirement For All Access To Electronic Information, Including That Obtained By Stingrays”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:

Good, but depressing at the same time

The fact that this even needs to be done, that the laws have been twisted so badly that ‘You need a warrant to spy on people’s private data’ even needs to be said, is both depressing, and disgusting.

Depressing that it’s reached this point, disgusting that there are so many out there arguing that people don’t deserve such things as privacy, because it makes their jobs slightly harder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good, but depressing at the same time

It’s actually more like business as usual.

No matter which point in time you look at history you will for a fact find that the government has always been doing this.

It is the natural progression for governments to become a totalitarian/dictatorial/corrupt state. Therefor when our vigilance falters, we will have no choice but to throw off that government and being anew again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good for the goose----

This is exactly why the government was so afraid of the Anonymous movement. The ability to reveal the widespread abuses and corruption was too great a risk. So they did anything and everything in their power to suborn and corrupt members and tried to use it for their own malevolent purposes. You can’t fight evil with evil. They don’t negate each other out, they only take us further and further from the freedom that was promised at the start of our country.

Anonymous Coward says:

I like how the bill requires law enforcement and service providers to inform private citizens that their private information is being seized and searched. No more compelling service providers to secretly hand over account information about citizens. Finally account holders are being afforded recourse and due process to challenge these secret invasions into our private lives.

Here’s the specific section of the bill I’m referring to:

“…a notice that informs the recipient that information about the recipient has been compelled or requested, and states with reasonable specificity the nature of the government investigation under which the information is sought.”

Nicci Stevens (profile) says:

As cases involving child pornography have been getting thrown out of courts due to improper, inadequate, or non-existent warrants or probable cause documents, one really has to wonder about the counter claim used by LEOs and others who say that imposing the safeguards of the Bill of Rights means those who do so are in favor of sexual abuse or exploitation of children. When courts throw these cases out the usual “think of the children” bs is thrown about, however it is those who usurp the law and the rights of everyone else to impose their idea of justice on the perpetrators.

Anyone with any degree of sense believes that sexual exploitation of children is repugnant but, as we have seen over and over, law enforcement and overzealous prosecutors can and do fabricate probable cause and even evidence in an effort to convince the public who trust them that they are taking down these dangerous criminals when, as we have seen lately, they’re simply putting the public on notice that they cannot prosecute because they cannot uphold and abide the laws and rights they have sworn to do so.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...