The CalECPA as a Model Step for Privacy Reform in the Digital Age: Law Review Article Review

Are police allowed to track our cell phones, internet searches, and other digital information? How much of our electronic data is private, and what role should the government play in protecting our privacy? My good friend and law school classmate Abby Wolf addresses these topics in her law review article: "The World Still Looks to California: The CalECPA as a Model Step for Privacy Reform in the Digital Age." I downloaded it off SSRN, printed a copy, and finished the paper during my Amtrak ride from DC to NYC a few weekends ago.


Abby's article is well-researched and a great overview on privacy law. The first part of her title, "The World Still Looks to California," comes from my current boss (for 20 more days!), Jerry Brown.


Abby's attention to detail is incredible: for example, Footnote 2 describes where she attributes the quote in her title: "it is also included in a placard below his gubernatorial portrait in the California State Capitol." Since I happen to work in the Governor's Office, I checked my boss' portrait and lo and behold:


Abby gives the background of current privacy law and California's Electronic Communications Privacy Act "CalECPA." The bill essentially lays down standards for how police obtain electronic data and establishes a notice requirement to make individuals aware of when they are being observed by police. Although this bill was signed almost three years ago, the implications are important regarding how our privacy rights evolve with technology and what role the government should take in safeguarding our rights.

Abby's paper is basically a condensed version of a privacy seminar in law school, but features flashes of fun such as quotes about death over metadata and a tweet by controversial leaker Edward Snowden. I love how you can tell Abby is somewhat constraining how much she geeks out over current problems in privacy law and how much of our data is being accessed.

Abby's analysis of the CalECPA is objective and balances the views of law enforcement and the individual. It also extends to areas that the legislation leaves unregulated- raising dystopian fears such as facial recognition in crowds that are becoming a reality in California and around the world.

Abby's paper is perfect background info for current privacy law affairs, as the Governor recently signed "what experts call the nation’s most far-reaching law to give consumers more control over their personal data." Wonder why you keep getting emails about your internet accounts' privacy policy? It's because people like Abby are paying attention to your rights and informing us on how we should act to keep them protected. California is continuing to build upon the CalECPA, and Abby's law review article is informative and leaves us with hope that the people of California can and will pave the path for privacy rights and inspire others across the country.

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