Police seeking to intercept cellphone text messages cannot take the easy route under a general search warrant, but must go through the same judicial hoops as they do when tapping into voice or other telecommunications and persuade a judge to issue a wiretap authorization, the Supreme Court of Canada said Wednesday (2013-03-27).
In a 5-2 split, the high court ruled in favour of telecommunications giant Telus, one of the only Internet service providers in Canada to routinely store copies of all its subscribers’ texts in company databases for 30 days.
“Text messaging is, in essence, an electronic conversation,” wrote Justice Rosalie Abella for her colleagues, Morris Fish and Louis LeBel. “The only practical difference between text messaging and the traditional voice communications is the transmission process.”
She said that distinction “should not take text messages outside the protection of private communications to which they are entitled.”
“Technical differences inherent in new technology should not determine the scope of protection afforded to private communications.”