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 ECPA -- the Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- is a truly outdated piece of law that law enforcement regularly abuse to conduct warrantless searches on your digital information.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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  1. 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.

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