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 ECPA -- the Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- is a truly outdated piece of law that law enforcement regularly abuse to conduct warrantless searches on your digital information.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

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