UPDATE 1-Canada's top court bolsters Internet privacy protection

Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:27pm EDT
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(Adds comment from government and privacy lobby group)

By Alastair Sharp

OTTAWA, June 13 (Reuters) - Canada's constitution bars authorities from forcing Internet providers to turn over the identities of customers without a warrant, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday in a decision that better protects online anonymity.

Privacy advocates say the ruling makes unconstitutional a Conservative government bill currently before Parliament that would broaden the ability of police to monitor online traffic. The legislation, which would amend existing laws covering search warrants and other investigative techniques, is intended to combat cyberbullying, but critics say it would allow excessive online spying.

The high court handed down an unanimous ruling on Friday in the case of Matthew David Spencer, convicted of possessing child pornography by a Saskatchewan provincial court.

Spencer, who gained access to the Internet from an account registered in his sister's name, used his own computer to store hundreds of sexually explicit images and videos of children.

The court said police effectively conducted a search without a warrant when they requested and received subscriber information for the account from Shaw Communications Inc , the Internet provider.

Without the information gleaned from that search, the court said police would not have obtained a warrant to physically search Spencer's property.

The court said Web surfers have a reasonable expectation of privacy that was breached by the police request.   Continued...