Balancing, Privacy, and Mobile Information
54 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 14, 2017
Although the privacy of text messages, when retrieved from the recipient, has been solved in US jurisprudence largely by the third-party doctrine, the Canadian courts have rendered the analysis much more complex, in part because they have repudiated the third-party doctrine, and in part because they have adopted a set of different tests that courts have used haphazardly. I propose that despite this complexity, the question affords a relatively simple answer. Normatively speaking, there is no reason to distinguish among letters, email, and text messages: they all attract the same basic privacy interest. However, if the police have objective grounds for believing that particular individuals have been exchanging text messages in furtherance of a crime, the standard of reasonable suspicion is sufficient to justify a limited search, aimed solely at obtaining those messages. This approach allows the public to remain secure in the knowledge that their text messages are not open to random and baseless searches by the police, while nevertheless affording the police access to text messages just when they can articulate objective grounds for believing that the messages will disclose evidence of crime.
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