The California legislature recently enacted the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“CalECPA”) (Senate Bill 178), which provides greater protections against governmental searches for persons’ electronic communications. The enactment of CalECPA follows judicial recognition, in the Fourth Amendment context, that modern technologies allow for far greater amounts and more sensitive types of information to be accessed and searched in manners not contemplated in decades past.

Under CalECPA law enforcement agencies will be required – subject to certain exceptions, such as consent of the individual whose communications are at issue, or to prevent death or serious physical injury – to obtain a warrant or court order to compel production of or access to “electronic communications,” which is defined broadly as “transfer of signals, writings, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectric, or photo-optical system” from an electronic communication service provider.

CalECPA also requires warrants and court orders compelling access or disclosure of electronic communications to set out with particularity the information subject to the warrant or order and the relevant time period, and to provide for sealing of any information or materials other than those specified.

Separately, California has enacted an innovative law designed to protect the privacy of information collected through connected televisions. Assembly Bill 1116 prohibits the enablement of voice recognition features within connected television devices without the specific consent of the user of that device. Assembly Bill 1116 also precludes use of information collected through voice recognition features for advertising purposes, and prohibits the compulsion of a manufacturer to build voice recognition features for investigative or law enforcement uses.