Police want the right to force Canadians to unlock their smartphones

Police in Canada want to make it a criminal offence to refuse allowing an officer with a search warrant to search Canadians’ phones.

Currently, there is no law in Canada that forces Canadians to hand over their passwords or encryption keys to law enforcement. Police however, are frustrated by digital evidence that often leads to dead ends, reports the Toronto Star.

The report goes on to say that the motion speaks to a growing dilemma for Canadian law enforcement agencies that repeatedly come up against road blocks while searching for crucial evidence.

There are several sides to this argument. Police argue that this is a matter of public safety — that is users have nothing to hide then there should be no reason to restrict access. Furthermore, that the ability of the police to do their jobs is being “eroded” due to “disappearing evidence,” reports the Toronto Star.

On the other hand, privacy advocates argue that this movement by police is an abuse of law enforcement’s power and breaches the Canadian right to protect against self-incrimination.

Currently, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians from self-incrimination, which is arguably breached by the obligation to provide access to one’s phone.

The Toronto Star and the CBC were recently privy to RCMP case filed which they claim demonstrate the limitations they face in the digital age, and form the basis of their argument for expanded access. Outlets such as Motherboard quickly came out against that concept, calling it a mechanism to incite fear in Canadians.

These reports are part of a five-part series on this issue being published by the Star and the CBC.

Related: RCMP gives Toronto Star and CBC ‘unprecedented’ case access to push security narrative

[source]Toronto Star[/source]