The majority of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has concluded in R v Trapp, 2011 SKCA 143, that an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the IP address assigned to him or her by an internet service provider (ISP), a point which appeared not to have been considered previously by an appellate court in Canada.

[Link available here].

The Saskatoon police tracked activity associated with certain keywords on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. A user’s IP address is revealed while files are being shared and it is also possible to browse a user’s shared files. Through their keyword monitoring, the police found child pornography in the shared folder of user and determined that SaskTel was the user’s ISP. SaskTel identified the user as Brian Trapp, and also provided his address and telephone number. Trapp challenged the disclosure of that information as an unreasonable search under s. 8 of the Charter in his appeal from conviction on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Cameron JA (Jackson JA concurring) accepted that Trapp enjoyed a reasonable expectation of privacy in the IP address assigned to him by SaskTel, even though it revealed only his name and location; ‘information of this nature is potentially capable of revealing much about the individual, and the online activity of the individual inside the home’. Obtaining the information from SaskTel was a search under s. 8, but a reasonable one in that the police had asked the ISP to provide the information voluntarily and had no reason to think the ISP was not prohibited from complying with that request.

Ottenbreit JA reached the same result but through a different route: Trapp had no reasonable expectation of privacy in simple biographical information, there was no s. 8 search and no Charter violation.

See also R v Spencer, 2011 SKCA 144, where the majority (Ottenbreit JA again dissenting) agreed with the majority in Trapp.

[Link available here].

Meanwhile in Alberta, licence plate numbers are not personal information: Leon’s Furniture Ltd v Alberta (Information & Privacy Commissioner), 2011 ABCA 94, leave to appeal refused 2011 CanLII 75277 (SCC).

[Links available here and here].