This morning in a major victory for those who want some semblance of privacy, the Supreme Court Of Canada ruled Canadian ISPs cannot hand over customer info to police without a warrant. Here’s what the CBC had to say:
Friday’s decision concerned the case of Matthew David Spencer, of Saskatchewan, who was charged and convicted of possession of child pornography after a police officer saw illegal files being downloaded to his IP address — a series of numbers representing a person’s internet identity.
The police officer went to Spencer’s internet service provider (ISP), Shaw, and asked for the real identity of the customer attached to the IP address. The police officer did not have a search warrant, but was given the address of Spencer’s sister, allowing police to track him down.
Spencer appealed the decision, arguing that the search was unconstitutional and his rights were violated.
The Court of Appeal ruled there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for basic internet subscriber information, prompting Spencer to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
However, there is a catch. Mr. Spencer didn’t get off the hook:
Although the Supreme Court set limits on when internet providers can disclose customer information, it dismissed Spencer’s appeal.
It said police should have obtained a warrant before asking Shaw for the customer information. But it also said police acted reasonably and in good faith, so the administration of justice would be impaired if the evidence gathered by searching Spencer’s home were thrown out of court.
This is something that I like. The court protected privacy and the bad guy didn’t get away. It’s a win-win.
One thing that this decision does do is it throws the future of Bill C-13 which is the Canadian Government’s anti cyber-bullying bill. It contains a provision that allows cops to access to the same sorts of information that was mentioned in this case. My guess is that this bill will have to be modified to avoid the possibility that the Supreme Court may strike the bill down. But I am a computer nerd, not a lawyer. Perhaps a real lawyer would like to comment on that?