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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit

Thursday, July 19, 2012
Contact: (415) 703-5837

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the creation of the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit in the Department of Justice which will focus on protecting consumer and individual privacy through civil prosecution of state and federal privacy laws.

“In the 21st Century, we share and store our most sensitive personal information on phones, computers and even the cloud. It is imperative that consumers are empowered to understand how these innovations use personal information so that we can all make informed choices about what information we want to share,” said Attorney General Harris. “The Privacy Unit will police the privacy practices of individuals and organizations to hold accountable those who misuse technology to invade the privacy of others.”

The California Constitution guarantees all people the inalienable right to privacy. The Privacy Unit will protect this constitutionally-guaranteed right by prosecuting violations of California and federal privacy laws. The Privacy Unit centralizes existing Justice Department efforts to protect privacy, including enforcing privacy laws, educating consumers and forging partnerships with industry and innovators.

The Privacy Unit’s mission to enforce and protect privacy is broad. It will enforce laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure, and destruction of private or sensitive information by individuals, organizations, and the government. This includes laws relating to cyber privacy, health privacy, financial privacy, identity theft, government records and data breaches. By combining the various privacy functions of the Department of Justice into a single enforcement and education unit with privacy expertise, California will be better equipped to enforce state privacy laws and protect citizens’ privacy rights.   

The Privacy Unit will reside in the eCrime Unit and will be staffed by Department of Justice employees, including six prosecutors who will concentrate on privacy enforcement. Joanne McNabb, formerly of the California Office of Privacy Protection, will serve as the Director of Privacy Education and Policy, and will oversee the Privacy Unit’s education and outreach efforts. 

Protecting the privacy of Californians is one of Attorney General Harris’s top priorities. The creation of the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit follows the forging of an industry agreement among the nation’s leading mobile and social application platforms to improve privacy protections for consumers around the globe who use apps on their smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices. The platform companies who signed on to that agreement -- Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook, Google Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company, Microsoft Corporation and Research in Motion Limited -- agreed to privacy principles designed to bring the industry in line with California law requiring apps that collect personal information to post a privacy policy and to promote transparency in the privacy practices of apps. 

Attorney General Harris established the eCrime Unit in 2011 to prosecute identity theft, data intrusions, and crimes involving the use of technology. The eCrime Unit provides investigative and prosecutorial support to the five California regional high-tech task forces funded through the High Technology Theft Apprehension and Prosecution Trust Fund Program and provides coordination for out-of-state technology-crime investigation requests. The eCrime Unit also develops and provides training for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, the judiciary and the public on cyber safety and the importance of strong information-security practices.  

The February 2012 press release announcing the apps agreement can be found here: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-secures-global-agreement-strengthen-privacy

The June 2012 press release announcing that Facebook joined the apps agreement can be found here: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-announces-expansion-california%E2%80%99s-consumer

The December 2011 press release announcing the creation of the eCrime Unit can be found here: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-announces-creation-ecrime-unit-targeting

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