Tower Dump Case Opens Privacy and Enforcement Issues

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The case of R v Rogers, 2016 ONSC 70(Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Ontario court provides clear guidance on privacy and “tower dumps” in R v Rogers and Telus) raises issues about the privacy rights of Canadians and the Charter that creates them.

The summary of the said case goes as follows: the Peel Regional Police investigated a string of jewelry store robberies. They asked telecommunication companies to submit the records of all cellphone towers in the area where the crimes are being committed.

The order was followed by six telcos, but two of them took the matter to court since this means opening up records of tens of thousands of Canadians. The following are the personal information being sought names of all customers using the towers, addresses, who the customers were calling and texting (names and addresses included), and billing information, including credit card and bank information.

The court said the police sought information that was irrelevant to the investigation. They even asked for credit card information, which won’t be useful or helpful at all.

The police was unshaken. They went to the justice of peace who granted the order. When Rogers and Telus pushed back, they withdrew the order, and tried to convince the Court the matter was moot.

Thankfully, the Court sided on the rights of every Canadian to privacy, even though the crown propositioned that the telcos should be the ones to negotiate with the police so the order can be narrowed down. The judge said the police can’t go for everything they want and then hide behind a judge’s signature.

In conclusion, the tower dumps should remain accessible to law enforcement as long as certain guidelines are followed. The judge in the case did produce those, and it will hopefully give police access to such sensitive information without sacrificing the privacy or threatening the rights of the citizens.

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