California Passes Landmark Online Privacy Law

Eye Looking Through A KeyholeThe state of California passed a law last week that offers sweeping digital privacy rights and protections to citizens.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act prevents any state law enforcement agency from “compelling a business” to turn over any data or digital communications without a warrant. The law also prevents these agencies from tracking the location of electronic devices or searching through them without a warrant.

According to the ACLU, five other states have warrant protection for online content while nine others protect against GPS tracking. However, the California bill is the biggest and most comprehensive of its kind.

Lawmakers questioned how online communication could have none of the same protections as modes of communication in real life.

“For what logical reason should a handwritten letter stored in a desk drawer enjoy more protection from warrantless government surveillance than an email sent to a colleague or a text message to a loved one?” said state senator Mark Leno. “This is nonsensical and violates the right to liberty and privacy that every Californian expects under the constitution.”

How does this apply to Facebook? Easy: it means California cops will no longer be able to snoop through suspects’ profiles looking for evidence without a warrant. That may seem trivial, but that is a gigantic win for Facebook user privacy. Hopefully California is just the first of many states to embrace such a privacy-minded law.