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Ontario court rules police cellphone data collection violated human rights

[JURIST] The Ontario Superior Court [official website] on Thursday ruled that police orders requiring telecommunications companies to hand over cellphone user data breached the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms [text, PDF]. The orders, labeled "tower dumps," demanded [Globe and Mail report] that Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp. [corporate websites] provide the police with personal information for more than 40,000 individuals, including [CBC report] their names and billing details. The police alleged that the information was procured to screen for possible criminal activity. Rogers and Telus argued [Star report] that the orders violated the privacy of their consumers and fought the 2014 order. The court found that the orders violated the Section 8 protections against unreasonable search and seizures. According to estimates [CBC report] the police make over a million such requests in a given year.

Due to perceived growing terrorist threats and social unrest, the right of privacy in light of police powers has become an international issue. This month the New York Police Department (NYPD) [official website] settled [JURIST report] two civil rights lawsuits accusing the NYPD of wrongfully monitoring Muslims after the 9/11 attacks. In November a US judge ruled against [JURIST report] part of the National Security Agency's (NSA) [official website] surveillance program that collects domestic phone records in bulk. The NSA had been collecting mass data under the USA PATRIOT Act since it was signed into law in 2001, but the program was only brought to light in 2013 after leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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