Up until recently, cops who arrest you could rummage through the content on your cellphone. Yeah, we're talking about photos, texts, emails, search history, maps, your grandma's lasagna recipe, you name it.

A California court said that anything you had on you at the time of your arrest is “really fair game in terms of being evidence of a crime.” The California Supreme Court seconded that emotion, but last year the U.S. Supreme Court put on its big-boy pants and decided that police need a warrant to get into your phone.

Justice Samuel Alito urged state legislators to step in to concurrently protect our rights in the digital age. “A legislative body is well suited to gauge changing public attitudes, to draw detailed lines, and to balance privacy and public safety in a comprehensive way,” he wrote.

State senators Mark Leno and Joel Anderson, with an amen from L.A. area Assemblyman Mike Gatto, have been stepping up to the challenge with SB 178, a proposed law that would once and for all require a judge's blessing in most cases where cops want to access “a person’s private information, including data from personal electronic devices, email, digital documents, text messages and location information,” according to a summary.

The ACLU this week revealed the results of a statewide survey of likely voters. No big surprise was revealed. You don't want cops prying into your iPhone without a judge's signature.
The survey by Tulchin Research asked 900 likely voters about it. It found that 82 percent support requiring a warrant before law enforcement can get into your digital devices.

Nearly 79 percent said a warrant should be necessary if officers want to “track” your phone's whereabouts. About 77 percent said a warrant should be needed for accessing text messages.

Apple, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn Dropbox and the Internet Association support SB 178, which is also known as the California Electronic Privacy Act.

“Now is the time for Governor Brown to sign CalECPA into law and update California’s privacy laws for the modern digital age,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of California, which also supports the legislation. “Californians want police to get a warrant before accessing our private emails, text messages, and tracking our cellphones. They want to see a change that makes sure their privacy is properly protected.”

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.

LA Weekly