Cooper Introduces Human Trafficking Evidentiary Access Legislation

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SACRAMENTO – At a press conference today, Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), along with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office, crime victim’s families, and bill supporters, announced the introduction of AB 1681. The bill will allow law enforcement to investigate and prosecute suspected criminals and criminal organizations that are involved in human trafficking and other serious crimes.

In 2014, cell phone manufactures began providing new operating systems for smartphones and tablets, these new operating systems employ, by default, “full-disk encryption” (FDE).

The only way to access data stored on a smartphone using an FDE operating system is by the user, or with permission from the user, using a passcode. This includes when law enforcement establishes probable cause, secures a judicial search warrant from a judge, and serves that search warrant on the operating systems manufacturer, seller, or leaser. 

“Human traffickers are using encrypted cell phones to run and conceal their criminal activities,” said Assemblymember Cooper. “Full-disk encrypted operating systems provide criminals an invaluable tool to prey on women, children, and threaten our freedoms while making the legal process of judicial court orders, useless,” Cooper added. 

Without AB 1681, law enforcement risks losing crucial evidence in human trafficking cases if the contents of passcode-protected smartphones remain immune to a court order.

“I support an anti-encryption policy that will restore the ability to access cellphone data by a court ordered search warrant.  If smartphones are beyond the reach of law enforcement, crimes will go unsolved, criminals will not be held accountable, victims will not receive justice and our ability to protect our children and community will be significantly compromised,” said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.

AB 1681 will impose a civil penalty upon any manufacturer, seller, or leaser of specified operating systems for smartphones that use a “default” system that block the manufacturer, seller, or leaser from complying with a search warrant issued by a judge.

AB 1681 would restore a critical investigative tool, while keeping our communities safe and preserving the Fourth Amendment.

Assemblymember Cooper represents the Cities of Sacramento, Elk Grove, Galt, and Lodi.