When a car theft is suspected, law enforcement agencies often have to make a choice between saving a life or arresting someone for a crime they believe they are not responsible for.
The same applies when it comes to online crimes.
This month, a California judge ruled that a law requiring a person to disclose their IP address can be enforced without violating a suspect’s privacy.
The ruling could affect an estimated two million Californians, including law enforcement officials.
“The court held that the law is not unconstitutional,” said Richard Haines, a privacy expert at the University of California, Irvine.
The decision “sets the stage for a lot of other cases where we can expect a similar outcome.”
The decision could be challenged in federal court, but a spokesman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told CNN that he would not comment on pending cases.
Becerras office did not respond to requests for comment.
Last week, the California State Assembly passed a bill to require police departments to provide an online address, similar to a physical address, for every person arrested or charged with a crime.
The bill, which was referred to the state Senate, would also require police to turn over any information they have collected on a person suspected of committing a crime and the location of the crime scene.
“We can’t go around telling people they can’t walk into their house without a warrant,” said Mark Anderson, director of the University at Buffalo’s Center for Privacy and Technology.
“There’s a reason for that.
People don’t trust police and they don’t like to give them their information.”
The new bill will be considered by the Assembly on Wednesday.
The legislation would also add the information to the California Penal Code, the state’s criminal code, which would require prosecutors to disclose suspects’ online location and other details in cases involving sex trafficking, stalking and weapons charges.
“These are very important rights,” said Hains, “and they’re important for public safety.”