After two years running through Canada’s various judicial bodies, the Supreme Court has sided with TELUS after the company appealed a decision allowing police to obtain records of future text messages with a general search warrant. In a 5-2 decision, the judges came to the conclusion that, since “text messaging bears several hallmarks of traditional voice communication,” said Justice Rosalie Abella. “There is an expectation of privacy in the communication,” making it sufficient to enforce a wiretap for any future text messages that would be intercepted.
The judgement comes after a 2010 decision by an Ontario court that would have forced TELUS to provide to police all text-based communications of two of its subscribers as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Because the case was in progress, the enforcement allowed not only for past text messages but any that would be made in the future as well. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, this is not allowed in respect to voice communication; the police argued that because TELUS stores text messages for 30 days in a database, it should be entitled to the information under a general search warrant. TELUS disagreed, stating that ongoing investigations, regardless of communication method, should involve a wiretap. Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed.
This decision should set a precedent for Canadian carriers, whose first responsibility is to the privacy of its customers.