The ‘Wilson’ case

This is supporting material for my narrative of the ‘Richard Warman v FreeDominion/internet privacy’ appeal hearing on 8th of April, 2010.

The arguments made during the hearing referenced various cases, rulings and precedents. Since I am not a lawyer, nor trained in law in any way, it helped me understand what was going on when I looked up a few of them.

The ‘Wilson’ case

This may be a distasteful case, but the ruling in it establishes an important principle.

Miles Wilson was accused of possessing child pornography.  The police followed a trail where they found an IP address they believed would lead them to the suspect.  The police officer found out that that IP address was served by the ISP provider Bell Canada, and wrote them a ‘form lettter’ requestisng disclosure of the physical location of this IP address.  Based on this information, the police officer obtained a search warrant for the residence indicated, executed the search and found the evidence the police were seeking to prosecute Mr. Wilson.

An analysis of this case from ‘The Court’:

The fundamental issue before Leitch R.S.J. of the Superior Court of Justice was whether, in accessing the accused’s name and street address from Bell without first obtaining a warrant, police had infringed upon the accused’s reasonable expectation of privacy, contrary to s. 8 of the Charter. Remove the legalese and the issue in Wilson becomes far more dramatic: are Canadians free from unbridled state surveillance of their online activities while in the confines of their homes?

First, in rejecting the accused’s s. 8 claim, Leitch R.S.J. determined that one’s name and address, or that of one’s spouse, falls beyond the inference-resistant “biographical core” threshold of Plant. Second, Letich R.S.J. found that given the fact that names and address are “information available to anyone in a public directory”, they are, in isolation, largely meaningless pieces of information as far as s. 8 is concerned.

Here, the issue is in the criminal realm, not the civil case we are talking about here.  However, there are aspects of this case which were examined and discussed during the appeal hearing, specifically as related to the IP address, the expectation of privacy and the differences between this case and the one under review.

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