Cops must get a warrant before raiding phones, email, etc (in California)

Super Cali: Be realistic, get a wa– ah, screw it

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California has passed a law requiring police to obtain a warrant before searching phones, tablets, and other electronic devices, and accounts in cloud services, too.

This even includes Stingray devices, which are cellphone masts that officers set up to track and monitor people by their mobiles.

Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday signed off the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require a search warrant for electronic searches. The law means cops will now need to obtain a warrant from a judge in order to retrieve electronic information, including emails, texts, and locational data, on a device or from a hosted service provider.

"For too long, California's digital privacy laws have been stuck in the Dark Ages, leaving our personal emails, text messages, photos, and smartphones increasingly vulnerable to warrantless searches," said Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), co-author of the bill.

"That ends today with the Governor's signature of CalECPA, a carefully crafted law that protects personal information of all Californians. The bill also ensures that law enforcement officials have the tools they need to continue to fight crime in the digital age."

Leno and Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) introduced the bill back in February. The bill had the backing of industry heavyweights, including Apple, Google, and Facebook.

The signing makes California the third state, behind Utah and Maine, to enact the warrant provisions for electronic data. Privacy and digital rights groups hailed the decision as an important step in protecting personal data.

"CalECPA's passage marks a significant milestone in the campaign to update computer privacy laws, which have been stuck in the 1980s," wrote EFF investigative researcher Dave Maass.

"We hope that California's success will lend momentum to the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act."

Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of California, added: "Governor Brown just signed a law that says ‘no’ to warrantless government snooping in our digital information. This is a landmark win for digital privacy and all Californians.

"We hope this is a model for the rest of the nation in protecting our digital privacy rights." ®


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