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Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

Passage of California Electronic Communications Privacy Act a Historic Win for Privacy

In a landmark victory for Californians’ privacy rights, Governor Jerry Brown yesterday signed the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA, SB 178) into law. The bill, jointly authored by Senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Joel Anderson (R-Alpine), updates the state’s privacy laws for the digital age by protecting Californians against warrantless surveillance of their digital information. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has long advocated for federal reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act as well.

“This is a major win for privacy and for Californians. With so much of our information existing online, it’s important that our communications are protected from government access to the strongest degree possible. The law now requires a warrant for digital communications, location information, and metadata, extending the protections we expect for our letters and papers to our electronic information,” said G.S. Hans, Policy Counsel and Director of CDT’s San Francisco office.

CalECPA updates California’s privacy protections to reflect the modern digital world and reinforces constitutional rights to privacy by ensuring that police get a warrant before accessing digital information like emails, text messages, location information, and online documents, as well as before tracking or searching electronic devices like cell phones.

“It’s heartening to see California take this important step to protecting citizens from warrantless law enforcement access. This should serve as a spur to Congress to pass similar federal legislation, which currently has 300 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and is only languishing because of opposition from federal administrative agencies,” added Chris Calabrese, CDT’s Vice President, Policy.