Ian Mulgew: Court chooses Internet privacy in limiting police access to text messages
When you send a text message, do you assume it stays just between you and your friend? What about the police? Article by Ian Mulgew for the Vancouver Sun The B.C. Court of Appeal has struck a blow for Internet privacy at the expense of letting walk a Nanaimo man accused of drug trafficking because of his text messages.
It is believed to be the first Canadian appellate court ruling on the expectation of privacy in texts that have been delivered, even when sent for criminal purposes.
“(It) seems to me that the social norm is to expect that text messages remain private communications between the sender and recipient,” wrote Justice Harvey Groberman, supported by colleague John Savage. “In ordinary circumstances, the sender and recipient expect the record to be transitory, and not to be shared.”
Although they were aware of no other Canadian high bench ruling on the issue, the majority in the recent 2-1 decision said trial judges have split on the privacy question.
Groberman concluded texts were analogous to ephemeral cellphone conversations: They are private communications intended only for the recipient. In effect, then, they should be accessed by police only under the authority of a search warrant.
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