SACRAMENTO — A great victory has been clinched by civil liberties and privacy advocates in California! Governor Brown has signed three bills that will help California residents ensure that their private information is not being arbitrarily intruded upon by government agencies or that their private information is not being misused.
SB 178 (Leno-D)
Senate Bill 178—the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (dubbed “CalECPA”)—is California’s solution to the outrageously obsolete
federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was first passed in 1986 and practically obsolete at its inception. The CalECPA will greatly enhance those outdated protections by preventing law enforcement and other government entities from accessing private data, which is normally carried out by compelling production from service providers, third parties, or by physically or electronically interacting with the device. Under SB 178, in order to gain access to such data, government entities will now be forced to seek a warrant, wiretap order, or subpoena in accord with existing state laws — something that many people believed law enforcement was already required to do. Alternatively, access can be gained by seeking the consent of the device’s owner; thus, citizens must be vigilant in enforcing their personal rights to avoid deception or coercion into giving up their private information. The only other exception would be if the device (such as a cell phone) is believed to be lost or stolen, or in “good faith” emergency situations.
SB 741 (Hill-D)
SB 34 (Hill-D)
Like Stingray technology, many citizens are unaware of automated license plate readers (“ALPR”). ALPR devices are able to “see” in total darkness, read license plate numbers, check against a database, and store the number, date, time, and location of the vehicle. This practice effectively allows the government to track the travel and movements of anyone. SB 34 is similar to SB 741 by requiring local agencies to adopt ordinances outlining usage and privacy policies at regularly scheduled meetings. SB 34 also requires security procedures to be adopted that ensure the privacy and civil liberties of individuals. Unfortunately, SB 34 also lacks the restrictions on law enforcement that are typically necessary to protect the public from abuse of government power. The bill does, at least, establish a cause of action for anyone harmed as a result of an operator’s misuse of data. Like SB 741, the CCLA looks to the future with the hope that the provisions of this bill will be expanded. The CCLA will work hard to ensure it will.