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

CNN Business

California is trying to thwart abortion lawsuits in other states by banning Silicon Valley giants and other Golden State-based companies from handing over the personal information of abortion seekers to outside authorities.

A new law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday prohibits California-based companies from giving up geolocation data, search histories and other personal information in response to out-of-state search warrants, to unless such warrants are accompanied by a statement that the evidence sought is not related to an abortion investigation.

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

It’s the latest example of how California is using its status as a powerful state, with jurisdiction over the world’s most powerful tech companies, to influence politics nationwide.

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

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

The new law prohibits abortion-related search warrants in the first place and requires that all out-of-state search warrants certify that they are not abortion-related.

But by directly undermining other states’ anti-abortion laws, California’s new law could put companies in the difficult position of having to choose sides — and face potential legal penalties no matter which they choose.

Companies that violate AB 1242 could be prosecuted by the California Attorney General. But if they comply with AB 1242, they could also face legal action in states that have restricted abortion for failing to follow due process.

“Anti-choice sheriffs and bounty hunters are going to 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 advocacy group. which supports California law.

When state laws conflict, Schwartz said courts first consider whether a state has jurisdiction over a company, and then, if it does, they fall back on a procedural tool known as “choice of law” to determine which law should apply.

A state that has only a few employees of a company, or is home to users of an electronic service, is unlikely to pass the proficiency test, Schwartz said. Even if it did, he added, it would likely fail in choice of law because California law is designed to govern companies that are incorporated in California or have their “principal executive offices” in California. California.

Still, he acknowledged that there are likely to be many court battles ahead.

“We’re going to see more of this situation where a company faces, at some point, an anti-choice state legal proceeding ordering it to disclose abortion-related data, and a law blocking a pro-choice state prohibiting it from disclosing that same data,” Schwartz said. “This is an important new area, this contest between the anti-choice legal process and the pro-choice blocking laws, and c This is a matter that could make its way through the courts to the highest court.”

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

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

CNN’s Clare Duffy contributed to this report.