While not a Supreme Court decision, there was another case decided this week that was a huge win for the privacy rights of those using cell phones. And who isn’t using a cell phone these days? You can get a good summary of the decision at this CBC site.
Essentially, the case arose when the police (in Peel, Ontario) asked Rogers and Telus to produce cell phone records of every customer whose signal bounced off a certain communications tower. The police were investigating a series of jewelry store robberies, and they believed that they would obtain information relevant to their investigation if they obtained the information from the telcos.
The issue, however, was that to comply with the police request, the two telcos would have had to produce information on more than 40,000 customers. Obviously, not everyone who used that particular tower at that particular time was involved in the crime. Essentially, the information of more than 40,000 innocent people would have been handed to the police.
The judge from the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the police request was too broad and violated the Charter's right to privacy.
Apart from upholding the idea that cell phone users have a right to privacy even though some of their call-related information is in the hands of the telcos, the case is significant in that it was Rogers and Telus that took up the privacy battle. The police tried to argue that these companies didn’t have standing to bring the Charter challenge, arguing that it had to be a customer (or customers), instead. However, the court rejected this notion and said that it made sense for Rogers and Telus to be the advocates responsible for upholding their customer’s rights.
I know that Rogers and Telus are often thought of as the big corporate bad guys that face a myriad of complaints lodged with the privacy commissioner. This is one time, however, I am grateful that they used their extensive resources to fight a worthy battle on behalf of all Canadians.
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