This month, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the California Senate that would require law enforcement to get a search warrant before accessing a person’s digital information. The proposed California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (S.B. 178) is broadly written to protect “any information about an electronic communication or the use of an electronic communication service”, including contents, location, metadata and other personally identifiable information.
S.B. 178 was introduced the same week that a pair of bills were introduced in Congress aimed at reforming the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.
Digital privacy bills seeking to shield electronic information from warrantless governmental searches have been introduced in California three other times in 2011, 2012 and 2013, with strong bipartisan support. But each bill was vetoed by Governor Brown, arguing that the bills went beyond the requirements under federal law and could impede ongoing criminal investigations.
With new legislation being considered in Congress, and with other states also taking the lead to strengthen protections for digital information, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act may finally have success this time around. This bill has strong support from tech giants Google and Facebook, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of California, among others.
The bill is expected to heard sometime this Spring.