A homicide case in London, Ontario could determine how far police can look into a person’s Facebook messages for investigative purposes.
London police want to obtain messages that they wish to present as evidence in a current murder trial. Police have filed a ‘production order’ asking Facebook Canada for the information.
However, Facebook says that since it’s an American company that stores data in the U.S., it does not have to accept Canadian production orders.
The social media giant wants Canadian authorities to undergo the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) process. The MLAT process requires Canadian authorities to request that American authorities ask the FBI to convince Facebook to release the information.
The process is usually used for physical evidence. It typically takes at least 10 months for the American portion of the system.
“This case is of huge precedential importance both for police and for tech companies like Facebook,” Gerald Chan, a Toronto-based lawyer who focuses on digital privacy, told the CBC.
Since more and more of our lives are spent online, authorities want to access digital information the same way they would obtain physical evidence. However, tech companies are reluctant.
As lawyers continue to dispute the virtual evidence, the case is currently on hold.