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When the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last month that police needed a search warrant to get basic subscriber information from Internet providers, it seemed clear that if law enforcement agencies only had an IP address they needed a court order to get more information.

There was one question unanswered: What if police say they already have a subscriber’s name, and they only want to confirm what they have? That’s what Rogers Communications says most police requests involve.

Today Rogers and Telus Corp. answered the question for the Globe and Mail: Any request for subscriber information to them needs a warrant.

It’s a change in policy for telecommunications providers, who have for years been turning over basic subscriber information to police on request without a warrant. Court orders have always been needed by law enforcement to intercept email or voice communications.

As the Globe points out in quoting Ken Engelhart, Rogers senior vice-president of regulatory affairs, the Supreme Court decision in part clarified Rogers’ thinking on this. But, he added, customers have been asking the carrier why it isn’t doing more to protect personal information being held.

There is another angle to this: In pending legislation before Parliament, bill C-13 would give telecom carriers protection from civil law suits if they had over personal information on request. The bill outlines under what conditions that would be, including handing over information in an emergency. That provision would still hold — and the Supreme Court made it clear that for such circumstances a warrant isn’t needed. But for everything else police wouldn’t be able to use the exemption as a way to squeeze carriers to be forthcoming with customer information.

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