Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 54, authored by state Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) passed the California Legislature Wednesday. The resolution directs the California Law Revision Commission to review state laws that govern "access by state and local government agencies to customer information from communications service providers..."
The legal threshold that needs to be passed for companies to hand over customer data to the government is unclear, according to the California Office of Legislative Counsel:
"A patchwork of laws exists throughout the California Code and range from requiring an undefined “lawful process” in some instances to detailed information on a standard form created by the Attorney General."
Whether or not businesses are legally required to oblige a subpoena, warrant or other government requests like national security letters may have led businesses to disclose sensitive information when under no legal requirement to do so.
In a release, Padilla said:
“This resolution will assist the legislature in developing a comprehensive framework that will protect a customer’s constitutional rights to privacy, free speech, and freedom from unlawful searches and seizures. At the same time, it will provide the necessary clarity in the law for local and state government agencies to pursue their public safety mission in a lawful manner.”
The legal parameters of data requests from the government remains an ongoing concern to many; especially, following reports of Silicon Valley-based tech companies like Yahoo and Microsoft's participation in the NSA's PRISM spying program.
The CLRC review will entail an examination of four areas:
- Updating statutes to reflect 21st Century mobile and Internet-based technologies.
- Protecting customers’ constitutional rights, including, but not limited to, rights to privacy, free speech, and freedom from unlawful searches and seizures.
- Enabling state and local government agencies to protect public safety.
- Clarifying the process communications service providers are required to follow in response to requests from state and local agencies for customer information or in order to take action that would affect a customer’s service.