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Making Progress on Privacy: CalECPA reform

Mozilla takes privacy seriously – in our products, our policies, and our practices. As a result, we support draft legislation introduced today in the state of California to improve warrant requirements for electronic communications, also known as CalECPA reform (California Electronic Communications Privacy Act).

Last week, to recognize International Data Privacy Day, we hosted a Twitter chat and two separate gatherings for privacy professionals and the Mozilla community. But we don’t just prioritize privacy one day every year. We lead the technology industry year round in developing and advancing best practices for privacy and data protection – a distinction recognized by the Ponemon Institute, whose rankings have recognized Mozilla as the most trusted Internet company for privacy. And we are pushing the privacy envelope with product research on new Firefox features like accountless communications through Hello and tracking protection.

Because we put users and privacy first, we support CalECPA reform. The CalECPA bill would help protect Internet users by subjecting law enforcement requests for information to due process, and enforcing due process requirements in a meaningful way. The legislation applies warrant protection to all personal electronic information, regardless of its age or nature; it requires prompt notification to affected individuals; it extends reporting requirements for traditional wiretaps to electronic communications; and it includes reasonable exceptions in the case of emergencies or specific consent. The bill’s provisions help protect data privacy while enabling law enforcement to be effective.

Mozilla supports federal ECPA reform in Congress. In 2013, we joined with hundreds of technology companies and nonprofit organizations, and over a hundred thousand digital citizens, in calling for ECPA reform. At that time, despite overwhelming bipartisan support, government agencies pushed federal reforms off the table, leaving Internet users without protection. In fact, despite significant harm to trust online in recent years, the response from government leaders has left much to be desired.

Trust online has taken a beating, as we’ve all learned that many of our private communications aren’t as private as we thought they were. This isn’t just a California issue, or even a United States issue. It’s about establishing and protecting our right to secure, private communications online.

We remain hopeful for federal ECPA reform, and will continue to advocate for it. But with the new Congress seemingly focusing its technology attention span on conflicting plans for the future of the open Internet, it’s unclear when such reforms might be adopted.

Supporting CalECPA is an opportunity to begin making progress towards that goal.