Internet service providers should not turn over their users’ private information to law enforcement officials without a warrant, Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled.
The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that warrantless searches are “presumptively unreasonable.”
“Some degree of anonymity is a feature of much Internet activity and depending on the totality of the circumstances, anonymity may be the foundation of a privacy interest that engages constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” the court said.
The Supreme Court ruling came after a case was opened involving a police officer from central Saskatchewan Province, who obtained personal information without a judge’s permission from the internet service provider of Matthew David Spencer. Spencer was charged in 2007 and convicted of possession of child pornographic material. Spencer appealed his conviction, arguing that the search had been unconstitutional and his rights had been violated.
Referring specifically to Spencer’s case, the top court said a new trial should be held for him on charges of making child pornographic material available to others, effectively nullifying the previous court rulings in Spencer’s case.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association hailed the court’s ruling in a statement, saying that the decision now clarifies “a point of long-standing disagreement between privacy advocates and law enforcement authorities.”
The Canadian government and law enforcement agencies have been asking telecommunications companies for private information about hundreds of thousands of their costumers each year without a warrant.
Last week, Canadian communications and media company Rogers Communications said it received more than 170,000 customer information requests from government and police agencies last year.
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