California Police Must Now Get Warrants Before Requesting Online Data

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California has seized an opportunity to show that it takes its residents’ privacy serious, just a couple of days after the Court of Justice of the European Union had declared US digital privacy laws inadequate.

Today, CA Gov. Jerry Brown has signed S.B. 178, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA). CalECPA requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before accessing digital records, including emails and texts, as well as GPS data. These protections apply to electronic devices and online services that store user data.

The law requires a search warrant for electronic information to describe with particularity the information to be seized.

Law enforcement agencies may request the digital information without a warrant in emergency situations but then they have three days after obtaining the information to file for a warrant.

Only Maine and Utah currently have similar laws.

The bill has been supported by Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and a number of other major tech companies. CalECPA is co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

ACLU reports that last year, AT&T received 64,000 requests for production of digital information and Verizon reports that only one-third of requests had a warrant. Twitter and Tumblr received more demands from California than any other state.

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