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Police need warrant to seize text messages

March 27, 2013 at 5:30 PM   |   Comments

OTTAWA, March 27 (UPI) -- Canada's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday police must get wiretap orders to seize text messages from wireless phone service providers.

The 5-2 decision overturns a lower court ruling against Telus Communications that ordered the company to deliver copies of two customers' text messages after Owen Sound, Ont., police served a general warrant, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said.

"Text messaging is, in essence, an electronic conversation. Technical differences inherent in new technology should not determine the scope of protection afforded to private communications," Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella said.

Telus had appealed the lower court's ruling, arguing that seizing the messages would constitute "interception" of the communication and would thus necessitate a wiretap warrant. A wiretap warrant is more difficult to obtain than a general warrant, due to special privacy provisions in the Criminal Code that protects private communications, the CBC reported.

But Abella said the only meaningful difference between text messaging and voice communications is the transmission process.

"This distinction should not take text messages outside the protection to which private communications are entitled," Abella said.

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