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    Ontario Court of Appeal Permits Warrantless Search of Cellphone Without Password Protection

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    Friday February 22, 2013
    In a surprising and troubling decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal has permitted a police search of a cellphone that was not password protected or locked during the course of an arrest.  The court found that the police had a reasonable belief that the phone might contain relevant evidence and it was acceptable to undertake a "cursory" examination of the contents of the phone. The court noted that "if the cell phone had been password protected or otherwise 'locked' to users other than the appellant, it would not have been appropriate to take steps to open the cell phone and examine its contents without first obtaining a search warrant." 

    The decision raises serious concerns given the increasingly blurry line between smartphones and personal computers (the court found that this particular phone was not a "mini-computer") and the suggestion that the contents on a phone without password protection is "readily available to others." Canadians are surely entitled to expect that the contents on a private cellphone - whether locked or unlocked - are private and that police access to the content should require a warrant.
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    Manitoba To Introduce Bill To Regulate Consumer Cellphone Contracts

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    Monday May 09, 2011
    The Manitoba government is expected to introduce new legislation today to regulate consumer cellphone contracts.  The bill follows a consultation on the issue last year.
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    Manitoba Launches Consultation on Cell Phone Contracts

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    Thursday December 16, 2010
    The Government of Manitoba's Consumer Protection Office has launched a consultation on consumer cellphone contracts that includes questions on locked phones, early termination of service, and disclosure issues.
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    61 Reforms to C-61, Day 15: TPMs - No Exception for Cell Phones

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    Friday July 11, 2008
    The 61 reforms series now shifts to several weeks worth of postings on the fundamentally flawed, dangerous, and stunningly overbroad anti-circumvention provisions in Bill C-61.  The digital lock rules have rightly been the primary focus of attention for most groups as they are far more restrictive than the Liberal's C-60, more restrictive than approaches in other countries such as New Zealand, and arguably even more restrictive than the rules under the U.S. DMCA.  The Canadian DMCA goes far beyond what is needed to comply with the WIPO Internet treaties and ultimately have the effect of eviscerating fair dealing in the digital environment. 

    Even with the many reforms I plan to propose, the reality is that these provisions will still be problematic.  I question the need for anti-circumvention legislation (as do countries like Israel which declined to include it in their recent set of reforms).  If the government is committed to anti-circumvention legislation, however, major amendments are critical.

    With an eye on the launch of the Apple iPhone in Canada today, I start the anti-circumvention problems with their effect on locked cellphones.  As currently drafted, the bill could make it an infringement to unlock a cellphone and would certainly make the distribution of programs used to unlock cellphones (or service providers that do so) illegal.  Why is this the case? 

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