It was a near legislative sweep for privacy advocates this
year as Governor Brown signed all but one of the key privacy bills that reached
his desk. These include:
SB 602 (Yee) will ensure that government and third parties cannot access private reading records without proper justification. This is no small victory being that digital books will store data that can include books browsed, how long a page is viewed, and even the electronic notes written in the margins. It's not hard to see the detailed portrait of your life such information could paint.
AB 22 (Mendoza) will prohibit a prospective employer from using consumer credit reports in the hiring process unless it’s directly related to the job. This bill was one of our top priorities this year for a number of reasons, including: credit reports do not have predictive value in determining a worker’s ability to perform job duties, while a bad credit report might unfairly influence a hiring employer’s attitude toward a job applicant; a significant percentage of credit reports are inaccurate, and correcting such information in a credit report is a tedious, time consuming affair; and millions of peoples credit scores have been decimated by a Great Recession that was no fault of their own, but in fact due to the actions of some of the very interests that then arbitrarily determine ones credit rating. For all of those reasons and more this legislation was a victory for both privacy and economic justice.
SB 24 (Simitian) will provide an important upgrade to California's landmark breach notification law. It spells out which key details must be included in that notification letter, and would make sure the Attorney General hears about the breach. SB 24 will help consumers make sense of these notices, and help arm us to stop identity theft. Sony, Citibank, and the Bay Area Rapid Transit District are recent examples of businesses and government agencies whose customers’ records were stolen by hackers.
The Big Disappointment: Governor Vetoes SB 914 (Leno) - Police Search of Smart Phones
Unfortunately, in 2007, California's Supreme Court ruled against such a distinction, arguing, "The cell phone was an item (of personal property) on the person at the time of his arrest and during the administrative processing at the police station. Because the cell phone was immediately associated with defendant’s person, (police were) entitled to inspect its contents without a warrant."
But these justices went even further - comparing the cell phone to personal effects like clothing. Worse, it argued that it wasn't because the police had a particular right in this particular case, or there was some special exception that allowed such a search, but rather, that no exception was even necessary. In other words, this case was not an exception, but rather the NEW rule: cell phone records are now of little difference than the shirt on your back if you've been arrested.
In response to the ruling, Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional law expert at George Washington University, seconded Justice’s fourth amendment related concerns, "The Court has left the Fourth Amendment in tatters and this ruling is the natural extension of that trend. While the Framers wanted to require warrants for searches and seizures, the Court now allows the vast majority of searches and seizures to occur without warrants. As a result, the California Supreme Court would allow police to open cell phone files — the modern equivalent of letter and personal messages.”