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Government Surveillance

California ECPA Coalition Looks to Modernize Email Privacy


Today, CDT, in partnership with a diverse coalition of companies and advocacy groups, announced its support of a bill authored by California state legislators designed to enshrine strong privacy protections for electronic communications in California law. The California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) would create a warrant standard for electronic communications, requiring police to obtain a warrant before gathering electronic communications information from service providers, with appropriate and limited public safety exceptions. CDT is particularly pleased to support this effort, as the provisions of this legislation are heavily informed by the core principles of the Digital Due Process coalition, which we have convened to help advance federal ECPA reform. The California effort furthers the push for federal ECPA legislation, which was introduced with bipartisan support in the Senate and House last week.

The need for ECPA reform has long been documented. In California, it is particularly acute, given the widespread use of electronic communications throughout the state. While California has historically been thought of as a leader on digital privacy issues, ranging from reader privacy to data breach, we have lagged on this issue. While law enforcement requests are ever increasing, California law remains out of date in extending warrant provisions to protect consumer data. Meanwhile, the federal Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement must obtain a warrant when searching mobile devices, and several states have begun to address the issue through legislation. As the most populous state and a key influencer on privacy issues, California addressing this pressing issue with strong language will help advance federal reform efforts.

With a broad coalition of supporters including major companies (such as Adobe, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Twitter) and leading civil liberties groups like CDT, the ACLU of Northern California, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, we hope that the California legislature and Governor Jerry Brown will act quickly to enact this legislation. Passage in California would not only update the state’s privacy protections for the 21st century, but would also send a clear signal to Congress that the time to enact federal ECPA reform is now.