FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WHAT: BCCLA at the Supreme Court of Canada to intervene in R v Bykovets to argue that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in IP addresses
WHEN: January 17, 2023, at 9:30 am EST / 6:30 am PST
WHERE: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa)
Ottawa, ON (unceded Algonquin Anishnaabeg Territory) – On January 17, 2023, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) will make oral arguments as an intervener at the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Bykovets, a case that will determine whether Canadians have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Essentially, the question is whether police need to seek a search warrant before obtaining this personal information.
Section 8 of the Charter protects our privacy rights, but only in situations where we have a reasonable expectation of privacy. As technology rapidly advances, this issue becomes ever more complicated. While an IP address may at first appear to be a string of meaningless numbers, it is actually unique and specific information that can reveal a person’s identity and, by extension, their most personal and private online behaviour. Recognizing a privacy interest in IP addresses is fundamental to protecting our online privacy more broadly.
In this appeal, the BCCLA will 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 represented by Daniel Song of Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey. Stephen Chin and Vibert Jack of the BCCLA also acted as counsel on this case.
The BCCLA’s factum is available here.