Home / BCCLA celebrates Supreme Court of Canada decision protecting online privacy

BCCLA celebrates Supreme Court of Canada decision protecting online privacy

Ottawa, ON (unceded Anishinabe Algonquin Territory) – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v. Bykovets, a case that considered the question of whether Canadians have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Essentially, the question was whether police need to seek a search warrant before obtaining this personal information.

The Court found that IP addresses do attract a reasonable expectation of privacy because they represent the key to identifying a person’s online identity and linking that to online activity. Weighing privacy interests against the need to combat online crime, the Court found that requiring a search warrant to get an IP address is a reasonable and necessary limit on police powers. 

The BCCLA intervened to argue that there is an inherent imbalance of power between internet users and companies that provide services online. Individuals have no choice but to use an IP address to access the internet and participate freely in modern society. After accessing services through the internet, we should expect to decide for ourselves whether our IP addresses should be shared with others. We cannot settle for the illusion of control.

Without judicial oversight, third-party private corporations have the power to displace individual agency and decide whether and when to uncover online anonymity to facilitate police investigations, thereby expanding the powers of the State. When internet companies indiscriminately store troves of our personal data and wield the discretion to collaborate with the State, it challenges the very limits of how we might participate in a free and open society.

The BCCLA is heartened by the Court’s acknowledgment that our right to privacy has become ever more important in today’s digital world. This decision also recognizes the risk posed by the vast collection of information by the private sector, and the need to limit its access by the State.

This decision is a huge victory for online privacy. Canadians can have the peace of mind that their online activities are safer from the prying eyes of the State. We are thankful that the Supreme Court recognized the need to take control of our online information out of the hands of corporations and give it back to individuals where it belongs.

Vibert Jack, Litigation Director for the BCCLA

The BCCLA is represented by Daniel Song of Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey. Stephen Chin and Vibert Jack of the BCCLA also acted as counsel on this case.