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Paul Zimmerman

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Digital Information – Now Protected More Than Ever

In the event that you missed it, on October 8th, 2015, California Governor, Jerry Brown, signed into law the California “Electronic Communications Privacy Act” (CalECPA) which requires any California state law enforcement agency to obtain a warrant before demanding inspection of any digital information from a business including, but not limited to, digital communications (e-mails and text messages), and other documents stored in the cloud. The law also requires a warrant before law enforcement can track the location of electronic devices (smart phones and other mobile devices). 

Notably, this new law dovetails with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the City of Los Angeles v. Patel case whereby the Court ruled that hotel owners have a privacy interest in their business records, including guest registration information.  As such, it deemed a Los Angeles law requiring hotel owner compliance with law enforcement inspection demands of guest registries to be unconstitutional. With the passage of the CalECPA, California now has effectively codified the ruling in Patel to protect business owners from warrantless searches of digital information.  It is worth noting that the CalECPA only applies to California law enforcement agencies, and thus inspection demands from out-of-state agencies may require review of non-California laws to determine whether applicable restrictions on inspection demands exist.  

This article is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.