By: Colin Johnson, Panel 9
California Lawmaker Proposes Warrant Requirement for Digital Data Access
Last Monday, a California state senator introduced the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a bill that would establish new requirements for law enforcement officials to access suspects’ digital information. If passed, this bill would be the most comprehensive state provision for the protection of digital privacy in the country.
CalECPA, as the bill is known, would provide significantly greater digital privacy rights to individuals than the current federal requirements. While courts have issued rulings clarifying and strengthening the protections of the federal ECPA, the law itself has remained largely unchanged since its implementation in 1986. Until Congress successfully passes a bill to update existing ECPA, citizens must rely on state courts to protect their digital information.
CalECPA would establish a warrant requirement not only for email but for all electronic communications, including contacts, GPS information, and metadata. However, the most interesting provision under the proposed law would allow for the appointment of special masters to ensure that the warrants are narrow and that any legally gathered information that turns out to be beyond the scope of the investigation is destroyed immediately.
If passed, CalECPA would provide a significant victory for digital privacy advocates. The passage of this expansive bill would send a clear message to federal lawmakers that the outmoded ECPA needs to be updated immediately in order to reflect the rapidly changing digital landscape of the twenty-first century.