Textual Privacy and Mobile Information

54 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2018

See all articles by Simon Stern

Simon Stern

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 18, 2018


The privacy of text messages, when retrieved from the recipient, continues to be a problem in Canadian jurisprudence, in part because the courts have repudiated the American third-party doctrine, and in part because the courts have used different tests which they apply 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.

Keywords: Civil Rights and Discrimination, Computer Law, Criminal Procedure, Evidence

JEL Classification: K00, K100, K240, K330, K400, K410, K490, N400

Suggested Citation

Stern, Simon, Textual Privacy and Mobile Information (April 18, 2018). Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 49, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3165029 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3165029

Simon Stern (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca/faculty-staff/full-time-faculty/simon-stern

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