March 20, 2013
SB 467 Requires Law Enforcement to Obtain a Warrant Before Seizing Private Electronic Communications
SACRAMENTO – Senator Mark Leno today announced the introduction of groundbreaking new legislation that protects email privacy. Senate Bill 467, sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), requires state law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before asking service providers to hand over a private citizen’s emails.
“No law enforcement agency could obtain someone’s mail or letters that were delivered to their home without first securing a search warrant, but that same protection is surprisingly not extended to our digital life,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “Both state and federal privacy laws have failed to keep up with the modern electronic age, and government agencies are frequently able to access sensitive and personal information, including email, without adequate oversight. SB 467 repairs the existing holes in California’s digital protection laws, ensuring that electronic communications can only be accessed by law enforcement with a warrant.”
EFF has long been concerned with law enforcement claims that investigators do not need a search warrant to obtain any email that has been opened or has been stored on a server for 180 days. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy recently announced it would support changes to federal law that would require a warrant in such cases. While this is a step in the right direction, updated state laws are still needed in order to protect consumers and the email services they use.
“California, the home of many technology companies, should be a leader in protecting the privacy of people's electronic communications,” said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. “Many of the state's technology companies have already indicated that they require a search warrant before disclosing the contents of communications. With SB 467, the warrant requirement becomes the status quo for all electronic communication providers and all law enforcement agencies across the state. We're happy to work with Senator Leno in ensuring our privacy protections keep up with the rapid changes in technology.”
The bill is also supported by the ACLU of California.
“Californians shouldn’t have to choose between using modern technology and protecting their privacy,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology & Civil Liberty Policy Director, ACLU of California. “SB 467 would ensure that content stored in the cloud receives the same level of protection as content stored on a laptop or in a desk drawer.”
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