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 ECPA -- the Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- is a truly outdated piece of law that law enforcement regularly abuse to conduct warrantless searches on your digital information.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

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