California Passes New Digital Privacy Law
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On October 8, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“CalECPA”). The law requires police to obtain a warrant before accessing an individual’s private electronic information, such as text messages, emails, GPS data and online documents that are stored in the cloud and on smartphones, tablets, computers and other digital devices. The government also must obtain a warrant before requiring a business to produce an individual’s electronic information.

The bill’s co-author, State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), hailed CalECPA as “a carefully crafted law that protects personal information of all Californians,” and noted that the law still ensures that police have the tools they need to battle crime. For example, pursuant to the CalECPA, the government may forego the warrant requirement if it (1) receives consent from the owner or possessor of the device or (2) has a good faith belief that an emergency involving potential death or serious physical injury necessitates access to the information.

The bill was co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.


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