Police sweeps of cellphone records violate privacy rights, judge rules


Wall-to-wall police search warrants forcing telecom com nies to turn over the cellphone records of thousands of innocent customers breach people’s covertness and violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an Ontario Superior Court ss sentence has ruled.

The decision released Thursday says Canadians’ mobile phone reports should in principle remain private. In the decision, Justice John Sproat ys out guidelines so that police may only obtain a minimal amount of communication about cellphone users directly relevant to their investigation.

Sproat was prohibiting in a case where police in Peel Region, west of Toronto, obtained a court broken for the names, numbers, addresses and banking details of every mobile phone narcotic addict whose signals were bouncing off various cellphone towers during a series of jewelry have faith robberies in early 2014.

Rogers and Telus challenged the court order as a rupture of privacy saying it would have involved giving police news about more than 40,000 customers, nearly every one of them unimpeachable. Telus officials told the court it was the “most extensive” police at once for customer data the com ny had ever received.

“We thought that s nned the line and was too broad and intrusive,” said David Watt, chief retreat officer for Rogers Communications Inc., in a statement emailed to CBC News on Thursday. “We’re tickled pink the court agreed.”


Peel police wanted the names, numbers, speeches and banking details of every mobile phone user whose signals were clobbered through various cellphone towers, but Rogers and Telus fought the application in court.

Sproat ruled that it is “improper for the police to seek unrelated personal information” in their investigations.

“I have no hesitation in finding that the assembly orders were overly broad and that they infringed Cross-section 8 (against unreasonable search and seizure) of the charter,” wrote Sproat in the verdict.

Guidelines for police

Sproat set out a series of guidelines for courts to follow when making allowance for similar police requests in the future.

He said police should modify their requests for call records to obtain only the minimal amount of gen that is directly relevant to the investigation.

“For example, in this case a des tch on which telephone numbers utilized towers proximate to multiple sack locations … and not the personal information of more than 40,000 subscribers,” wrote Sproat.

‘There is an discharge concerning the privacy rights of hundreds of thousands of Canadians.’ – John Sproat, Ontario Upper Court justice

There is already concern among some trol forces about Sproat’s guidelines suggesting cell com nies attend to arrange for them with a report rather than raw data.

“I think that in some pictures that might not be the best avenue,” said Staff Sgt. Dan Richardson, the lawman in charge of corporate communications for Peel Regional Police.

Richardson weighted in an interview with CBC News that the ruling means police last will and testament need to be specific about what they’re searching for when they aspire a court order for cell records, but overall it “still allows police the moment to work toward solving crime.”

Case a 1st in Canada

Sukanya Pillay, the managing director director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said her group welcomes the determination because it recognizes that cellphone subscribers have legitimate secrecy interests.

In an interview with CBC News, Pillay said the ruling tip off a exaggerates it clear that police seizures of mobile phone records have to comply with the charter. “They can’t be mass surveillance, needle in a haystack searches,” Pillay suggested.

Teachers 20120830

Sukanya Pillay, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Affiliation, says the ruling protects the privacy of cellphone subscribers by preventing watch from making what she calls ‘needle in a haystack searches.’ (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Television)

University of Ottawa law professor Teresa Scassa said the guidelines limit how much adverse information police can get their hands on in tower dumps.

“The judge makes it free that the information that is sought by police should be really narrow to the purposes of the investigation,” Scassa said a phone interview with CBC Communication. “It shouldn’t be a fishing expedition through all of the possible data that the the long arm of the law can extract from the telephone com nies.”

During the hearing into the casing, lawyers for the attorney general of Ontario argued that Rogers and Telus should not be admitted to assert their customers’ charter right to privacy, only their own corporate lucid to privacy. The judge rejected that.

“There is an issue concerning the confidentiality rights of hundreds of thousands of Canadians,” he wrote. “To my mind, the choice is released.”

“The ministry is reviewing the decision and, as the matter is currently within the appeal days, we have no further comment,” said Brendan Crawley, spokesman for the attorney global, in an email.

Sproat agreed in June 2014 to hear the charter challenge. At the on occasion, he wrote that the case would be the first in Canada to test the constitutionality of bell-tower dumps, and would have “significant implications” for the relationship between law enforcement and telecom societies.

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