Faced with Opposition from Wireless Industry, CA Legislators Make the Wrong Call
The good news is that SB 1434, the important California privacy law that would make sure that police get a warrant before getting access to sensitive location information, passing its first hurdle and is moving onto a full vote by the California Senate.
The bad news is that several California legislators made the wrong call yesterday, selling out the privacy interests of Californians to the wireless and tech industry by removing the bill's important reporting provisions.
The reporting section would have required cell phone companies to tell us how often and why they are turning over location information so that we know that the police are actually following the law and that our personal information is being properly protected by our cell phone companies.
As we blogged earlier this week, wireless companies opposed the bill, claiming it would be "unduly burdensome" to tell Californians what is happening to sensitive location information about who they are, where they go, and what they do, because they are already so busy "working night and day to assist law enforcement…" (Read the full letter)
Though, curiously, it hasn't been too burdensome for Sprint Nextel to process 8 million demands for location information in just over a single year from law enforcement through its automated system or for the major providers to keep detailed records of law enforcement demands to send itemized invoices and charge the police for access to our location information (check out AT& T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint invoices obtained by the ACLU in our recent public records act request for yourself).
SB 1434's author California Senator Mark Leno (D-SF), along with Senators Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), Carol Liu (D-La Cañada-Flintridge), and Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) who voted for the bill in its entirety, should be applauded for standing up for the privacy rights of Californians.
Senators Curren Price Jr. (D-Inglewood) and Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) only voted for the bill with the reporting requirements removed. Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) and Senator Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) voted no on the bill, refusing to support the warrant requirements.
What's clear is that the wireless industry really does not want us to find out what is really happening to our sensitive location information when they are "working day and night to assist law enforcement," and unfortunately, yesterday's vote means that cell phone companies may be able to keep us in the dark a little longer.
But, we are the constituents and we are the customers, and we deserve to know what's happening to our personal information. Contact the legislators and companies today and let them know loud and clear that they need to be working for us, not selling out our privacy.
Nicole A. Ozer is the Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director with the ACLU of Northern California.