California bans tech companies from complying with other states’ abortion-related mandates


Washington
CNN business

California is trying to block abortion litigation in other states by making it illegal for Silicon Valley giants and other businesses based in the Golden State to hand over the personal information of abortion seekers to out-of-state authorities.

A new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday prohibits California businesses from releasing geolocation data, search histories and other personal information in response to out-of-state search warrants, unless those warrants are accompanied by an evidentiary declaration. not related to abortion research.

The ban also prohibits state companies from complying with out-of-state law enforcement requests, including subpoenas and hearings, related to abortion.

It’s the latest example of California being used as a powerful state, with jurisdiction over the world’s most powerful tech companies, to influence policy at the national level.

“California is setting a national privacy standard,” Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, the bill’s architect, said in a statement Tuesday. According to a statement from California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the law went into effect immediately after it was signed.

Bauer-Kahan’s law, AB 1242, prohibits California companies, including Google, Meta, Uber and others, from producing records about an individual if the companies know “or should know” that it is related to a warrant they are responding to. abortion probe CNN has reached out to the companies for comment.

The new law bans abortion-related search warrants in the first place, and requires that all out-of-state search warrants be verified as unrelated to abortion.

But by directly undermining other states’ anti-abortion laws, California’s new law could put businesses in the difficult position of having to pick sides, and face legal penalties regardless of what they choose.

Companies that violate AB 1242 could face prosecution by the California Attorney General. But if they comply with AB 1242, they could face legal action even in states that have restricted abortion for not following due process.

“Anti-choice sheriffs and bounty hunters will be very motivated to do whatever they can to get this data,” said Adam Schwartz, senior attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group that supports the California law.

In the event of a conflict between state laws, Schwartz said, courts first consider whether a state has jurisdiction over a company and then, if it does, turn to a procedural tool known as “choice of law” to determine which law applies. . apply

A state that has only a few employees of a company, or is home to users of an electronic service, probably won’t meet the jurisdictional test, Schwartz said. Even if it did, he added, it would likely fail on choice of law because California law is tailored to govern businesses that are incorporated in California or have their “principal executive offices” in California.

However, he acknowledged that there will likely be many court battles ahead.

“We’re going to see more of this situation where a business is simultaneously facing a legal process requiring an anti-choice state to disclose abortion data and a blocking statute in a pro-choice state prohibiting it from disclosing the same data,” Schwartz said. “This is an important new area, this competition between anti-choice due process and pro-choice blocking statutes, and it’s an issue that could go all the way up the courts.”

Meanwhile, tech companies could find themselves between a rock and a hard place, according to the tech trade group Chamber of Progress.

“Red states and blue states are at war over abortion, and online platforms are caught in the crossfire,” Adam Kovacevich said in a statement to CNN. “California’s new law could have a major impact on protecting reproductive privacy, but it will first create a difficult conflict between state laws.”

CNN’s Clare Duffy contributed to this report.