By Kathleen McGuinness
On Saturday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 5-2 that the real-time police monitoring of text messages was an interception of private communications and required a hard-to-obtain wiretap authorization. R. v. TELUS Communications Co., 2013 SCC 16 (Can.). As the Globe and Mail describes, these authorizations are limited to certain serious crimes and to situations where other investigative techniques have been ineffective. Ars Technica contrasts this privacy-protective holding with the law in the United States, where courts have split over the legal protections afforded to text messaging.
Google Announces Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge
To encourage the development of open source software, Google recently announced its new Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge (OPN). Under this framework, Google has promised not to assert ten of its patents against open source software, subject to “defensive termination” if another entity sues them. The EFF describes the importance of these patents, one of which had already raised worries among open source developers, and discusses Google’s future proposals for similar licensing agreements designed to promote innovation. Google expects the OPN to have several benefits, including transparency, broad protection, and durability; Forbes describes these benefits in detail.
Legal Challenges to “Stingray” Surveillance Devices Continue to Grow
According to emails published on Wednesday, federal investigators have used “stingray” devices, a form of electronic surveillance, without explaining the method clearly to the judges issuing warrants. Ars Technica reports the story. As the EFF reports, “stingrays” can locate a cell phone by mimicking a phone tower, but gather large amounts of information from non-targeted users in the process. Because of this indiscriminant data gathering and the lack of effective judicial oversight, privacy organizations are concerned about the use of the devices. One case, United States v. Rigmaiden, No 08-814, 2012 WL 1038817 (D. Ariz. Mar. 28, 2012), has become the center of this legal controversy, with involvement from privacy organizations including the ACLU and EPIC. The Wall Street Journal describes the case’s history.