California Governor Jerry Brown struck down a privacy bill that would have required a warrant before tracking the location of a citizen’s mobile device, signaling a trend among Democrats and Republicans, at all levels of power, that warrantless spying has become a staple of American life. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that wiretapping has nearly quadrupled under President Obama. After Senate Democrats refused to pass a cybersecurity law for America’s infrustructure installations, such as power plants, the Obama administration is reportedly penning an executive order to push through some of the measures.
Proponents of warrantless spying argue that faster criminals require faster response times, such as the need to find a missing child before it became too late. “It may be that legislative action is needed to keep the law current in our rapidly evolving electronic age,” Brown wrote [PDF], “but I am not convinced that this bill strikes the right balance between the operational needs of law enforcement and the individual expectation of privacy.”
Specifically, California law SB 1434 would have required a search warrant to track suspects through their proximity to cell phone towers, a plan-B for law enforcement after courts denied them the ability to covertly affix GPS tracking devices to their cars.
When cybersecurity fails at the federal level, it falls to states. On this one-of-a-kind privacy law, California has sided with the president that new threats demand different expectations of privacy. What do you think? Is safety worth the privacy tradeoff?
[Image Credit: flickr user kiwanja]