Ontario Court Rules: Police Violated Charter With Collection of Cellphone Data

An Ontario judge, justice John Sproat, recently sided with telecommunication companies Telus and Rogers, in affirming that the police violated the Charter when they asked for the cellphone data of roughly 43,000 customers. The judge ruled that the in ordering the companies to hand over the personal information of their clients, they were breaching Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


“Every year such orders require cellular providers to produce the names and addresses of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of subscribers; who they called,; who called them; their location at the time; and the duration of the call. These orders may also require that credit card information be provided,” wrote Sproat on the matter.


The police originally ordered the data to be handed-over in 2014, but they later revoked after Rogers and Telus challenged them and the judge found that the disclosure of information had gone “far beyond” what was reasonable or necessary to gather evidence concerning any crimes they are investigating at the time. Justice Sproat affirmed that “common sense” should dictate that Canadians have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to their cellphone activity and data. He also outlined rules for how the police and courts should proceed with similar orders so as to limit intrusion to personal privacy.


The practice of collecting Canadians' cell phone records in bulk may be unconstitutional, but it isn't going to be stopped anytime soon. Previously, it was companies like Rogers and Telus themselves who had been handing-over personal information on Canadians to authorities. However, the two companies say that they welcome the recent decision and that they take their customer privacy very seriously. “Today's decision was really helpful in protecting privacy and providing guidelines to the police and courts and guidelines we can observe as well,” said Rogers' chief privacy officers Dave Watt. Other privacy and civil liberties advocates also see the recent ruling as a success in the way of trying to go about protecting the privacy rights for Canadians.




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