Police to get Warrants for Online Data in California

US metadata laws

For a long time law enforcement agencies have had a free pass to people’s online data. However, that has just changed in the State of California in the United States. The governor of California signed a new law that expects the police to get a warrant in order to be allowed to access users’ online data.  The police in California have no choice but to get a warrant in order to have a look at your personal email.

Recently, California’s governor Jerry Brown signed a privacy bill into law. The bill simply expects the police to obtain a warrant before accessing online data. Privacy Advocates and Silicon Valley supported the bill. This clearly shows that tech corporations are against government surveillance. According to the American Civil Liberties Union official (Nicole Ozer), the same protection chosen for hard data will extend to all data including metadata. The police may be restricted to access online data in California, but the federal law enforcement is not restricted. A federal law is waiting with the same instructions.

The online content covered by the California law extends from the location of your mobile device, files stored on cloud, emails and text messages. This bill has a significant impact on internet users in California, given the fact that it was backed by Facebook and Twitter.

According to Kent Walker (Google general counsel), Google gives a standing ovation to the decision of the governor of California to sign the bill. Kent stated that the bill will update California law on web users. He also stated that it has reached the time when law enforcement must have a warrant to access online users’ electronic data. In addition, the San Diego Police Officers Association did support the bill, while several large law enforcement agencies remained neutral. The California District Attorneys Association raised complaints to the legislature stating that passing of the bill will:

  • Kill significant efforts for stopping child exploitation
  • Violation of the constitution of California
  • Mandates the obliteration of evidence by police

The California District Attorneys Association made the complaints before moving back its opposition to the bill. In light of all these, there wasn’t any law enforcement group that was against the bill, responded to any request for comment.

A good number of states, such as Utah and Virginia have made considerable adjustments to their privacy laws. However, the one made by California seems to be the most comprehensive privacy law. Evidently, California new privacy law includes metadata. This means that data about data of anything online can only be accessed with a warrant. In August, Twitter reported a 52% jump as far as the number of law enforcement needs is concerned. The requests were mainly made for user data. 20% of the requests were accompanied by a warrant. The amazing thing is that more than 11% of the requests originated from California.

Leno said in a statement that the electronic data privacy laws have for too long been in a bad state. As a result internet users in California have been defenseless to warrantless searches; when law enforcement gains forced access to the users’ personal data including photos, text messages and personal emails.

Leno and Ozer have also claimed that there is little that has beendone to battle cyber crimes. Leno also stated that the bill has placed the necessary armor required by law enforcement to continue the fight against crime in the digital era.

Anyways, just remember that you can always try using private VPN connection to regain anonimyty and privacy on the Internet.