Canadians don’t give up their right to privacy after sending a text message to another person, the country’s top court has ruled. It’s a decision that one privacy lawyer said still means if you want to ensure privacy, encrypt your text messages.
The case involved an Ottawa area man who had his conviction for firearms offences dismissed after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled today that evidence of text messages he sent and found on an alleged accomplice were wrongly admitted as evidence at his trial. Essentially, the court ruled that without a search warrant the accused right to privacy under the Charter of Rights had been violated.
Police in fact had a warrant to search the house of a man the court calls M and the alleged accomplice and seized their cellphones. However, the trial judge ruled that warrant was invalid for technical reasons and the text messages on M’s phone couldn’t be entered as evidence.
“An individual does not lose control over information for the purposes of s. 8 of the Charter [the right to privacy] simply because another individual possesses it or can access it,” the court ruled. “Nor does the risk that a recipient could disclose an electronic conversation negate a reasonable expectation of privacy in an electronic conversation. Therefore, even where an individual does not have exclusive control over his or her personal information, only shared control, he or she may yet reasonably expect that information to remain safe from state scrutiny.”