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California Approves A Sweeping Digital Privacy Law

California's new digital privacy law essentially requires a warrant before any business turns over any of its clients' metadata or digital communications to the government. Hailshadow/iStockphoto hide caption

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California's new digital privacy law essentially requires a warrant before any business turns over any of its clients' metadata or digital communications to the government.

Hailshadow/iStockphoto

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the most sweeping and stringent digital privacy law in the country on Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Union called it a "landmark victory for digital privacy."

In essence, the law requires a warrant before any business turns over any of its clients' metadata or digital communications to the government.

Wired reports:

"State senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) wrote the legislation earlier this year to give digital data the same kinds of protection that non-digital communications have.

"'For what logical reason should a handwritten letter stored in a desk drawer enjoy more protection from warrantless government surveillance than an email sent to a colleague or a text message to a loved one?' Leno said earlier this year. 'This is nonsensical and violates the right to liberty and privacy that every Californian expects under the constitution.'

"The bill enjoyed widespread support among civil libertarians like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which have headquarters in California. It also had huge bipartisan support among state lawmakers."

The ACLU said it hopes the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act becomes a model for other states.

The Hill explains that under the federal Electronic Privacy Communication Act, the government can access digital data using a subpoena instead of a warrant. The paper adds:

"While federal agencies and the Justice Department say they don't use the authority because of prior case law, technology companies say it creates uncertainty as they try to repair customer trust after the 2013 U.S. surveillance leaks from Edward Snowden.

"In Congress, legislation to updated the act has more than 300 cosponsors, but it has not received any committee or floor action in either chamber."

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