Soapbox

Electronic privacy bill protects privacy rights and public safety

Mark Leno
Mark Leno hamezcua@sacbee.com

We should all be doing all that we can to properly protect the privacy of Californians of all ages. That’s why I have authored Senate Bill 178, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, with Republican Sen. Joel Anderson.

This bill updates California law for the modern digital age, protecting fundamental rights to privacy while creating clear rules so law enforcement can continue to efficiently do its job.

It’s a common-sense measure that is long overdue, and that’s why it has wide bipartisan support, endorsements from California’s tech industry and leading civil rights organizations, and no opposition from the state’s law enforcement groups.

SB 178 is a well-crafted solution to a growing problem. While technology has advanced exponentially, California’s communications laws are stuck in the dark ages, leaving our personal emails, text messages, photos and smartphones increasingly vulnerable to warrantless searches.

While an overwhelming majority of Californians (82 percent) want their digital information protected by a warrant, companies like Google and Twitter have received significant increases in government demands for consumer information.

Unfortunately, an out-of-state special interest group is trying to derail the legislation with baseless claims that it would undermine online investigations. It’s a desperate scare tactic to stall our progress in protecting the privacy rights of Californians.

The truth is that the bill was carefully crafted to ensure that law enforcement activities are not hindered. All undercover investigations will continue without a warrant, as will the police’s ability to gather basic information about potential suspects. Finally, the bill gives law enforcement officials the ability to delay notification of a warrant when it is critical to gathering evidence.

The notion that it would prevent some agents from investigating and prosecuting crimes against children is egregious. The allegation that our bill creates loopholes for sexual predators is equally appalling, unfounded and a cynical ploy by opponents desperate to derail the bill.

While we are spinning our wheels fighting fabricated allegations against SB 178, California has fallen behind other states, including Texas, Virginia and Utah, that have updated their privacy laws for the digital age.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, represents District 11. State Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, represents District 38.

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