On October 12, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed an electronic communications privacy bill. The bill, SB 467, would have compelled law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before seeking to access any email or other electronic communication maintained by service providers. The bill went beyond the scope of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which obligates law enforcement to obtain search warrants only for electronic communications that are unopened or stored by service providers for fewer than 180 days. The California bill was very similar to a bill signed into law in Texas earlier in 2013 that required law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before accessing customer electronic data held by email service providers.

SB 467 also would have required law enforcement officials to provide a copy of the warrant and a notice to the individual who is the subject of the warrant within 3 days of accessing the email or electronic communication. The notice would have included the nature of the inquiry into the email or other electronic communication and the date on the information was provided to law enforcement. Governor Brown noted in his veto message that he believed the bill “could impede ongoing criminal investigations.”

Governor Brown’s veto of SB 467 follows his recent approval of two other bills addressing online privacy issues: one that required website privacy notices to disclose how the site responds to “Do Not Track” signals, and another that bolstered online privacy protections for minors.