A new and stringent California law requiring police to obtain a warrant for online data may serve as the template for future laws across the US and possibly elsewhere as well.
The new law was signed on Thursday by California governor Jerry Brown.
It requires law enforcement agencies to get a warrant to obtain digital communications and metadata and also to search and track mobile devices. The warrant requirement applies to devices and services that store device data.
CNET report that the bill was supported by Silicon Valley, including leading companies like Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Apple and privacy advocates, showing that tech firms are resisting government collection of customer data in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations.
“The same protection as what we have for the data in our filing cabinets or home computers now extends to all our data wherever it may be,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Previously, California officers received permission for stingray use through judicial approval of a pen register application, which requires only that the information needed be relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.
The California law should serve as a model for the nation, according to a statement by Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of California. “This is a landmark win for digital privacy and all Californians,” Ozer said.
Before withdrawing its opposition to the bill, the California District Attorneys Association told the legislature that the bill “undermines critical efforts to stop child exploitation, mandates the destruction of evidence by law enforcement, and violates the California Constitution.” None of the law enforcement groups that opposed the bill replied to a request for comment.
California is not the first state to update its privacy laws from the analog age. Virginia, Utah and a handful of other states have also made changes, but Ozer said California’s modifications are the most comprehensive.
For instance, California’s new law applies even to metadata, the time stamps and other information that follow around Internet files and can prove who wrote an email when and from what location.