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Police will now need a warrant to obtain a person's IP address

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A Supreme Court of Canada ruling ruled in favor Friday of a man who believed that the police had violated his right to protection against unreasonable searches or seizures guaranteed by section 8 of the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms. (Archive photo)

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The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a ruling Friday that an IP address raises a reasonable expectation of privacy. The search by the police for an IP address then constitutes a search and must be subject to prior judicial authorization.

In a majority decision of five votes to four, the country's highest court ruled in favor of Andrei Bykovets, a man linked to a case of fraudulent online purchases.

He believed that the police had violated his guaranteed right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures by section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when the police sought to obtain his IP address as part of their investigation.

In 2017, Alberta police asked Moneris, a third-party payment processing company, to give them IP addresses used in fraudulent online transactions. Moneris then gave two.

Police then obtained a court order requiring an Internet service provider to disclose the place of residence of the holders of the IP address. They were thus able to trace Andrei Bykovets, search his home and arrest the man.

At his trial, Andrei Bykovets argued that the police violated his right to protection from search, and his arguments did not had not convinced the court judge.

The latter concluded that the request made by the police to the Moneris company did not constitute a search within the meaning of article 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because Andrei Bykovets did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to his IP address.

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ELSELL ON INFO: Law 21: Ottawa “lack of respect towards Quebec”, says Legault< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Andrei Bykovets was then found guilty of 14 offenses.

During the appeal trial, however, one of the judges expressed his dissent, finding that there is indeed a reasonable expectation of privacy in the case of IP addresses. Andrei Bykovets therefore decided to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The question at the center of the judgment rendered Friday was whether the request for an IP address made by the State, in this case the police, constitutes a search. If this is the case, such a request must first be subject to judicial authorization.

IP addresses are not just meaningless numbers, Judge Andromache Karakatsanis argued.

An IP address is the crucial link between an Internet user and their online activity. Considered normatively, it is the key giving access to a user's Internet activity and, ultimately, to their identity, writes the judge. An IP address therefore raises a reasonable expectation of privacy. Therefore, a request for an IP address made by the State constitutes a search within the meaning of section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Andrei Bykovets' convictions were ultimately overturned and a new trial will be held.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association applauded the ruling. Balancing the interests of privacy against the need to combat online crime, the Court found that requiring a search warrant to obtain an IP address constituted a reasonable and necessary limit on the powers police, she said in a statement released Friday.

Individuals n' have no choice but to use an IP address to access the Internet and participate freely in modern society, continues the Association. After accessing services on the Internet, we should expect to decide for ourselves whether our IP addresses should be shared.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, executive director and general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association – an organization that was an intervener in the ruling – hails an important victory for the privacy rights of individuals in Canada. She is pleased that in the future, police will have to obtain a warrant to access IP addresses.

When contacted, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said they were aware of the judgment: We are examining the potential repercussions. We have no further comments at this time.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116