Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Judge to Hear Charter Challenge on Privacy Issues Raised by Telus, Rogers

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Judge to Hear Charter Challenge on Privacy Issues Raised by Telus, Rogers

Article excerpt

Telus, Rogers raise customer privacy in court


TORONTO - An Ontario judge has agreed to hear a Charter of Rights challenge brought by Telus and Rogers after they were asked by police in April to release cellphone information of about 40,000 to 50,000 customers as part of an investigation.

Justice John Sproat says that the case has highlighted important issues about privacy and law enforcement that should be challenged in open court, even though Peel regional police tried to withdraw the requests.

"The privacy rights of the tens of thousands of cell phone users is of obvious importance," Sproat wrote in a ruling dated July 16 and released on Friday.

"Counsel for Rogers-Telus will be able to identify and argue Charter issues that might not otherwise be evident."

Mobile phones need to make wireless connections with antennas that are often mounted on towers. A record is kept each time a phone attempts or completes a phone call, text message or email that identifies which tower made the connection. Sometimes a call will be transferred from tower to tower, providing information about the phone's movements.

Each of the production orders presented to Telus and Rogers required the name and address of every subscriber making or attempting a communication through the specified towers and, in cases where the connection is between two customers, the orders also required billing information that could include bank and credit card information.

Telus told the court that the order would require it to disclose the information of at least 9,000 individuals. Rogers estimated it would need to retrieve about 200,000 records related to 34,000 subscribers.

The Crown countered that the Charter challenge should be dropped because police had withdrawn the original request for information from 21 Telus towers and 16 Rogers towers and were willing to ask for information from fewer towers.

Sproat, a judge of the Ontario Superior Court, said that warrants for cellphone records and tower dumps are common but he wasn't aware of any cases that address the related privacy concerns. …

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