California’s new law increases privacy protections for individuals
For a typical Californian, electronic devices—cellphones, laptops, tablets—contain his or her life. They store personal photos, bank account information, and the names and contact information of friends and family—not to mention texts, emails and voicemail messages. When someone accesses your device without your permission, it can feel as though they broke into your home and rummaged through your belongings. And when that someone also happens to be a law enforcement officer, they may locate information sufficient to bring criminal charges against you.
To protect privacy in connection with electronic communications, California enacted the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2016. Here are some of the protections guaranteed by this law:
These are just some of the new protections designed to protect the privacy interests of Californians. Do not be afraid to assert your rights: If a law enforcement officer requests or orders you to allow him or her to view the contents of your phone, you may have the right to request that the officer first obtain a search warrant—or else the officer risks losing the ability to use any information he or she might obtain.
Law enforcement officers can access the digital information of an electronic device only when: