In a landmark decision, Canada's highest court ruled that police must obtain a warrant to uncover citizens' anonymous activities on the Internet. The ruling bars Internet Service Providers from unveiling personal customer information to cops making a verbal request for such data. CBC News reported that the information is provided regularly now and has been throughout the recent past.
Cyberbullying bill may be unconstitutional
Currently there are two bills the Harper Government is concerned the court ruling will affect, the source noted. A cyberbullying measure that has received much support contains provisions that would allow police to have easier access to Internet Service Provider meta-data regarding phone calls and emails received from customers. Also, the Digital Privacy Act has language that gives law enforcement access to private subscriber information without providing a warrant. Government regulators are looking into fixing the terms of both bills.
To illustrate the problem that previously existed, a major Canadian ISP said it took 175,000 requests in 2013 from police and government officials about their subscribers. The Toronto Star added that The Canadian Border Service Agency requested telecom data more than 19,000 times between 2012 and 2013 with 99 per cent of those requests coming without a warrant. Teksavvy, a national ISP revealed that it received 52 requests between 2012 and 2013.
In the unanimous ruling, the court said that Canadian citizens have a "reasonable expectation" of privacy during their online activities and that, unless they're breaking the law, should not have that protection removed without a warrant. The Star also reported that police making demands of telecommunications companies and Internet Service Providers in Canada for subscriber information without a warrant is, in fact, unconstitutional.
Calling the opinion, "a seminal decision for privacy protection in Canada," Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, was pleased with the decision, adding that the court established that anonymity on the Web is vital to informational privacy.
In its decision, the court said police violated Section 8 of the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protect citizens from police conducting unreasonable search and seizures. The ruling also allows telecoms or ISPs to voluntarily provide police with data should they become aware of it, but they cannot be mandated to provide the information without a warrant.