Important California Privacy Bill Signed Into Law: Police Need A Warrant To Look At Your Data

from the now-for-federal-reform dept

For a long time now, we've been talking about the need for ECPA reform. ECPA -- the Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- is a truly outdated piece of law that law enforcement regularly abuse to conduct warrantless searches on your digital information. There are a number of problems with it, but the most cited one is the fact that it considers emails to be "abandoned" if they've been on a server for 180 days, and thus no warrant is needed to read those emails. That may have made sense in the mid-1980s when the law passed and the few people who used email downloaded their emails from a server to a local disk, but it makes no sense at all in the cloud era. However, actually getting ECPA reform through Congress has proven difficult, in large part because some in law enforcement really like this ability to snoop on your emails.

Thankfully, here in California, Governor Jerry Brown has just signed a new bill, for CalECPA, which protects users' digital information here in California. Just like the federal ECPA should do, CalECPA requires a warrant for access to digital records, including emails and text messages -- and the same goes for geographical location information.

This is a big win for EFF and the ACLU, who have been pushing for this law to make it through the California Assembly and then have Governor Brown sign it. Now, if only we could do something similar at the federal level...

Filed Under: calecpa, california, ecpa, ecpa reform, email, jerry brown, location info, privacy, text, warrant


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  • icon
    Jeff Green (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 4:08am

    A warrant? You're a terrorist!
    I must insist that you desist
    The children that you'll kill this way
    You've let the rabble have their way.

    If acts like this can be allowed
    All sanity's been disavowed
    Next thing you say police should be
    Required to function legally

    If we can't shoot men as we will
    And snoop and spy then calmly kill
    How can we keep the peace we should
    We can't be cops while being good!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 4:12am

      Re:

      Lyrics from a song, or on the spot wordsmithery?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Jeff Green (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 7:00am

        Re: Re:

        instant response (including typos), but if you can find it some music feel free :D

        A warrant? You're a terrorist!
        I must insist that you desist.
        The children that you'll kill this way
        You've let the rabble have their way.

        If acts like this can be allowed
        All sanity's been disavowed -
        Next thing you'll say "police should be
        Required to function legally."

        If we can't shoot men as we will
        And snoop and spy, then calmly kill,
        How can we keep the peace we should -
        We can't be cops while being good!

        I think that's better

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 4:08am

    Some good, mostly bad

    On the one hand, that the law was passed is certainly a good thing. On the other hand, that it even needed to be passed is a good sign of how screwed up things have become, and how ridiculous EPCA is. You shouldn't need another law to force police or others to get a warrant before rummaging around through private messages, the fourth amendment should be more than enough to get that point across.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 4:51am

      Re: Some good, mostly bad- The Myth and the Reality

      Personally I blame the Film/TV Cop dramas for this situation. For so long we have had films and TV where some of the protagonists are "the good guys" with the implicit assumption that any corner cutting that they do is justified. With this assumption it makes perfect sense to accept that the police should be allowed to do whatever they want - because it means they will catch more criminals.

      The reality however is that there is no such thing as a good guy (or a bad guy for that matter). There are good actions and bad actions. The whole concept of the rule of law is that rules are better than people as a way of telling the difference.

      If the police are not constrained by this type of rule then they are free to pursue personal vendettas and the road to tyranny is open.

      Without the requirement of warrants we have no rul

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 13 Oct 2015 @ 5:53am

        Re: Re: Some good, mostly bad- The Myth and the Reality

        That's why I keep saying that due process is not an impediment to justice. We've been taught by the media that it actually gets in the way.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 7:44am

      Re: Some good, mostly bad

      Problem is, you're using common sense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 9 Oct 2015 @ 4:30am

    Quick question, how will this law be enforced?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 4:50am

      Re:

      Well that depends, does California happen to have an abundance of judges that are willing to toss evidence gained through illegal means? If the answer is 'No', then the answer to your question will likely be 'It won't be'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 4:45am

    Question , If our data is stored in California on servers located there , will a warrant be needed , for someone out of state or country?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 5:24am

    "-- and the same goes for geographical location information."

    But how does this affect license plate scanners? The data is already in the hands of police, and freely shared between different agencies. The cops already have a full hisory of our whereabouts, going back years. Warrant-free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 5:27am

    This is a great step forward

    But we need something like this for the rest of the country.

    People other than Californians need some kind of a binding law that protects the citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. A law that requires a warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

    But this should be taken further. In addition to protection from arbitrary search and seizure, it should protect citizens from arbitrary arrest.

    If only the United States could ever get such a law. It could be modeled after other ideas that have been thrown around.

    But alas, it will probably never happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      mcinsand, 9 Oct 2015 @ 5:52am

      "But we need something like this for the rest of the country."

      We do need to push for a country-wide legal framework to protect ourselves from unreasonable search and siezure. Maybe we could call it something catchy, like The Fourth Amendment.

      In all seriousness, and I've said this before, we need to pursue prosecution. We have multiple officials that are undermining our Constitution that took an oath of office stipulating that they will uphold the Constitution. We need to criminalize such violations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 8:07am

        Re: "But we need something like this for the rest of the country."

        See the fourth amendment link in my message.

        I totally agree that we need to prosecute the "enemies domestic" who are undermining the constitution.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 6:11am

      Re: This is a great step forward

      That sounds like dirty commie terrorist talk to me. Every true citizen knows that the government and it's representatives know best, the idea that there should be limits on what they can do could clearly only come from the minds of liberal arch-conservative terrorist criminals of the most persevere persuasion.

      /poe

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Oct 2015 @ 5:40am

    This really does help highlight to more people that while they consider email to be like them old timey letters our grandparents mailed to each each other the law has been treating them differently.
    There is no reason to treat them differently, other than the continuing insanity that online magically makes the different. Its like those patents where they added on a computer or on the internet to things that wouldn't pass the regular tests for patentability.

    Now I'm sure a whole bunch of talking heads are going to run to the front of the line and go on and on about how this will make us less safe, but the otherside of the coin is letting this go unchecked has left us in a totalitarian state where we are spied upon with no checks and balances and we have seen evidence that these uncheck powers are being used well outside the stated intentions. Absolute power and all of that. It is nice to see the concept of needing evidence coming back to replace because we want to as an explanation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 9:31am

    So another law that police will choose to ignore and have almost zero consequences for breaking.

    I am happy they are fighting back against unlawful searches, but now we need to put some tooth into it to make certain the police will comply with this law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2015 @ 5:08pm

    I LOL every time one of "them" takes the oath of office. They lie like dogs to get the job, lie like a rug when they take the oath, and then lie like a cheap Thai watch while in office. This privacy bill is already law, but I am sure California taxpayers don't mind the legislature using their time and money to confirm it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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