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California Helps Pave the Way for Digital Privacy Reform

As attempts to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) are continually stalled out in Washington, California took the initiative, and Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) signed a new bill into law last week. CalECPA or S.B. 178 greatly strengthens state privacy standards compared to federal requirements under ECPA. Most importantly, the legislation mandates that state authorities must obtain a warrant to access any private emails, regardless of age. This is a notable change from the previous standard, which allowed authorities access to the same content without a warrant as long as the emails were dated past 180 days. Additionally, the bill would also require California authorities to obtain a warrant not only for emails, but for digital records, texts, and a user’s geographical location as well. Even further, the protections provided in this bill would be applied to online storage services in addition to electronic devices.