No Search Warrant, No IP Address

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Canada’s Supreme Court rules that the Canadian police won’t be able to access an IP address without a search warrant.

This case was brought to the Court’s attention by Andrei Bykovets, a convicted cybercriminal who was found guilty of 14 cases of online fraud after police tracked him down using IP addresses, which he claims they should not have been able to access without a search warrant.

According to Cybernews, the judge of Bykovets’ initial case was not persuaded, ruling that “the police’s request to the processing company was not a search… because Bykovets did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his IP address.” However, Bykovets appealed the verdict and eventually won the right to be tried again.

This new and revolutionary ruling sets a precedent determining that if the law’s purpose “is to meaningfully protect the online privacy of Canadians in today’s overwhelmingly digital world, it must protect their IP addresses.”

The Supreme Court further claimed that an IP address is the link between an internet user and their online activity and viewing it can unlock their identity, which means that an IP address “attracts a reasonable expectation of privacy.” They concluded that a request by the state for an IP address is subject to the same binding terms as a physical search of a person’s home or property.

It important to note that the court added it did not believe this requirement would impede future police work in the investigation of cybercrime: “Police should have the investigative tools to deal with crime that is committed and facilitated online. However, requiring that police obtain prior judicial authorization before obtaining an IP address is not an onerous investigative step. Where the IP address, or the subscriber information, is sufficiently linked to the commission of a crime, judicial authorization is readily available.”