CalECPA: California Governor Signs Landmark Privacy Law

California Governor Jerry Brown last week signed a new law designed to protect digital privacy rights. The California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA) mandates that a warrant is required in order for state law enforcement agencies or investigators to compel businesses to turn over metadata or digital communications such as emails, texts, and cloud-stored documents. Additionally, it requires a warrant for the tracking or searching of electronic devices. The White House, meanwhile, has backed down on its battle with tech companies over encrypted data of digital devices.

The California legislation was written earlier this year by state senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Joel Anderson (R-Alpine). Wired reports that it easily passed the California Legislature last month. According to the ACLU, the new legislation is the most comprehensive of its kind in the U.S.

mobileThe bill had support from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in addition to tech companies including Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter.

With the new law, California has taken the lead in protecting digital privacy of its citizens. As a result, other states and the federal government may eventually be compelled to follow suit.

According to Politico, EFF is now urging individuals to contact “lawmakers in Washington to support the House’s Email Privacy Act and the Senate’s ECPA Amendments Act, which would update the digital surveillance laws for the first time since 1986.”

“This is a landmark win for digital privacy and all Californians,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of California. “We hope this is a model for the rest of the nation in protecting our digital privacy rights.”

“Five other states have warrant protection for content, and nine others have warrant protection for GPS location tracking. But California is the first to enact a comprehensive law protecting location data, content, metadata and device searches, Ozer told Wired.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has relented to Silicon Valley regarding encrypted data of digital devices such as smartphones, “concluding that it is not possible to give American law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to that information without also creating an opening that China, Russia, cybercriminals and terrorists could exploit,” reports The New York Times.

While the decision may be a disappointment to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, tech giants including Apple, Google and Microsoft have argued that providing such agencies with back doors to source code and encryption keys would make citizens vulnerable to hacking.

The Obama administration indicated “it would continue to try to persuade companies like Apple and Google to assist in criminal and national security investigations,” notes NYT, but “determined that the government should not force them to breach the security of their products.”

Related:
Victory in California! Gov. Brown Signs CalECPA, Requiring Police to Get a Warrant Before Accessing Your Data, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 10/8/15
Behind the European Privacy Ruling That’s Confounding Silicon Valley, The New York Times, 10/9/15
Wikileaks Release of TPP Deal Text Stokes ‘Freedom of Expression’ Fears, The Guardian, 10/9/15
Internet Providers Would Be Forced to Block Filesharing Sites Under TPP, Motherboard, 10/9/15