How have changes in technology affected the manner in which the police are legally authorized to conduct searches in Canada?

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Technology is a level of knowledge that includes skills, methods, procedures, and strategies utilized in problem resolution, such as scientific study. Technology advancement has resulted in new methods of doing things. Canada has a high penetration of technology, which has influenced how police are legally authorized to conduct searches in the country. Sections 7 to 14 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee Canadian citizens the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Police have been granted common law and statutory powers to conduct searches. The court passed a ruling requiring police observes privacy of text messages. There has been a debate on the police powers in carrying out online surveillance, which has been triggered by adoption of new technology. There has been a concern that Canada police are more concerned with phones without password protection and emergency wiretaps in their searches to obtain evidence.

The supreme court of Canada has set out the limits in which the police can carry out online surveillance to foster privacy protection in digital communication. Technology has triggered the police to violate the set out legal procedures and requirements as well as misuse of powers granted them by law, this by conducting searches by accessing a suspect’s daily batch of text messages from their wireless provider without obtaining a special wiretap. Police in Canada have engaged in carrying out routine searches on suspect’s private information available online which is against their legally authorized means of obtaining evidence.


The Canada wireless provider Telus Corp has a raised a concern of its dissatisfaction with the way police are currently conducting online searches. The company reported that police have been requesting for client’s daily text data by forwarding on a general search warrant. Telus has considered it illegal and “interception”, which need to enhance privacy and protection of client information through provision of wiretap warrant by police. Wiretap warrants are more recommended and efficient as opposed to general warrant as they the police to meet a higher standard in obtaining permission from the judge. The criminal code prohibits exposure of private communications to third parties without the consent of the client or a court order (Aleksandra, 2014).

There has been a debate supporting police use of technology to conduct searches in Canada, as the proposers argue that the legal procedures and requirement are being followed. The changes that have occurred are that police are undertaking online searches by legally intercepting Canadians private communication through the use of intercept authorization warrant (Dripps, 2013). Despite the development of new technology, the police have obtained new procedures of carrying out searches such as scrutinizing a computer and printing out data. The police have remained within the legal framework in their searching by utilizing standards search warrant to search suspect information contained in the computer and even to print it out. The police are also using a production order to require suspects to submit information stored in an electronic device. The current technology has required the police to adapt effective and protective techniques of conducting searches to stay within the legal framework (Price, 2013). The police in Canada are applying for a wiretap authorization to intercept private communication only after meeting the following conditions. One after showing failure of other investigative procedures in obtaining the evidence, and proving that the case is urgent and other procedures may not provide the required evidence. The police have remained within the legal framework by preventing any use of technical differences in message transmission with an aim of scrutinization of wiretap authorization.

According to “E-policing: The impact of Information Technology on Police Practices” by Janet, David, Margot, &Sally (2001), advanced technology has enhanced police ways of doing their tasks authorized by the law as such transforming the structural conditions of policing; but has not changed the way police are legally authorized to carry out searches in Canada. Technology has enabled police to gain access to computers which has increased ability to acquire more information stored electronically as well as automating the manual process of conducting searches, which has not changed the way police are authorized to carry out searches (Lamdan, 2015). In arriving at the above conclusion, the study utilized interviews and focus groups, extensive document review, a statewide survey, and observation of police procedures while conducting searches. Interviewees were conducted with senior police executive, police, civilian, and corporate services staff.

The major weaknesses of the study was that the results relied on one police organization in Canada which may be biased as the institution may have given false information to show that the technology has not changed the way police are conducting searches according the legal framework. Another weakness is that the findings and conclusions are based on views of officers who participated in the research.

According to policing, surveillance, and law in a pre-crime society: understanding the consequences of technology based strategies journal, deployment of new surveillance technologies by police has lead to violation of legal framework as legal and social issues are not being taken into account thereby resulting in discrimination, non-transparency, lack of proportionality, and failure to follow the due process. Despite the positive impact of technology on policing, it has negatively affected the way police are conducting searches. Social media a significant criminal justice tool in gathering intelligence and locating clues but the police are misusing this platform by failing to follow the due process and using the obtained information for other purposes rather than as evidence for prosecution of the victim (Dripps, 2013).

There is need for more research to be conducted on the topic as the current research has failed to address some critical areas. More information need to be availed on the way police in Canada were conducting searches as authorized by law and the way they are carrying out the searches using current technology. The current research has failed to provide information on how the Canada authorities are addressing the issue of negative impact of technology on way police are conducting searches. There is need for a better elaboration on specific ways in which police are violating the authority granted to them law when conducting searches using the current technology.

Methods and Sources of Research Data

The study utilized both primary and secondary sources in obtaining information to elaborate on the topic of study on how changes technology has changed the way police are conducting searches in Canada. The primary data utilized is the current debate on the positive and negative impact of technology on the police manner of conducting searches in Canada. Secondary sources utilized included journal articles which includes “policing, surveillance, and law in a pre-crime society: understanding the consequences of technology based strategies journal”, and “E-policing: The impact of Information Technology on Police Practices”. The data used from secondary sources was mainly derived from the findings as well as the discussion and suggestion section of studies. The study utilized sources written or reviewed within the last five years as this is the period technology when technology has highly penetrated in the economy including the police sector.

Research Findings

Different sources had differing views of the way changes in changes has changed the manner in which police are conducting searches in Canada. one of the findings is that, changes in technology has changed positively the way police are carrying out different tasks such maintaining law and orders as well as preventing crimes. Despite the above positive impact, changes in technology has further lead the police in breaching privacy of the victims carrying out authorized surveillance of information for prolonged period (Timothy, 2017). Also police have changed the manner in which they conduct searches as they streaming into client private information stored in the digital devices and computers without obtaining the wiretap search warrant, which is against the criminal code (Lamdan, 2015). Police are only using the general warrant to get access of victim sensitive data thereby violating privacy code which is against the legal authorization granted to them.

Another finding is that changes in technology has changed the way police are carrying out searches in Canada, as they are using the social media tool to locate the victim and to gather evidence without using the due process in acquiring authorization (Janet, David, Margot, Sally, 2013). Another finding is that police are using the current technological devices to conduct searches which end up hurting the victims. One of the negative impacts of technological changes on police searches in Canada is the distortion and destruction of victim personal information contained in digital devices and other storage media, which is against the authority grated to them and also against the human rights. According to Canada constitution every citizen has a right to secure and safe search. There was also a finding that, police are approaching the wireless provider to provide the victim log information, which is thereafter being used for the wrong purposes rather than that authorized by the search warrant (Warde, 2013).

Search warrant further sets out a limit outling the specific period, place, and information that should be obtained by police. Police in Canada at times violate the law by extending the search limit by using digital devices to scrutinize victim information that is outside the limit (Sherman, 2013). There is also a finding that police are intercepting a victim private communication without acquiring a wiretap authorization which is against the legal authority granted to them by the constitution. Police are also applying for a wiretap authorization without meeting the set standards which include; failing to try other investigative procedures; failing to prove that other investigative techniques have failed; and demonstrating that the search is urgent and argue out that interception of communication is the only appropriate means at the moment (Arlen, & Kahan, 2017). Police are also violating the law, in conducting the searches by using technical differences in availing evidence relating to victim exchange of messages with other people, as a way of “running” away from through scrutiny of a wiretap authorization (Price, 2013). According to the Canadian law, a police is required to obtain a search warrant in accessing information from a phone protected by password. On contrary, police are harassing the victims to provide passwords for their private devices without a search warrant.

Discussion and Conclusion

Most of the data obtained directly relates to the question under study, such as the data touching on wiretap authorizations to search the victim personal information contained in digital devices. The data on communication interception further relates to issue of impact of technology on changes in manner in which police are conducting searches and the way laws are being violated in the searches. There is data obtained in the study that indirectly responds to the question of discussion such as the data on use of social media to gather intelligence and to obtain victim’s conversation information. The data provides a clue on how the technological change is indirectly affecting the manner in which police are obtaining search evidence. Another interesting finding is police approaching the wireless provider to offer victims log information without obtaining a search warrant (Timothy, 2017). It also includes police forcing the victim to offer the phone password so that they can gain access to the private information and contents which is against the Canadian law. There was also another interesting finding outling that police are obtaining special interception warrants in prior to conducting their searches without meeting the set out standards, which is against the law (Aleksandra, 2014).

There are tangential findings that raise issues such as granting of special interception warrants of police by the court without consideration of standards set out to be met. The issue that raises concern is the involvement of higher authority in assisting the police in breaking the law. Another issue is access of victim’s phones and personal devices by police without a search warrant, which raises the issue of breach of human right protection. It raises an issue on commitment of human rights commission in Canada on its commitment to enhancing citizens’ privacy protection. The current literature does not provide adequate information regarding the manner in which changes in technology has influenced the way police are conducting searches in Canada while observing the legal authority granted unto them. There is need to conduct a thorough research on the question of study to acquire a better understanding of the issue.

In conclusion, police is the most crucial body in every country as it is engaged in protecting lives of citizens. It is important to further examine the topic to acquire insights on how technological change has impacted ability of police are conducting searches in Canada while observing the legal framework. A further examination of the research question will assist in responding to the issue and in adaption of measures to ensure police integrity and transparency, as well as to ensure protection of human rights of security and privacy. A more investigative research needs to be conducted involving all stakeholders in different segments to help achieve reliability and validity of the study.


Arlen, J., & Kahan, M. (2017). Corporate Governance Regulation through Nonprosecution. The

University of Chicago Law Review,84(1), 323-387.

Aleksandra. S. (2014). What powers do police have for Online Surveillance?Journal of

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Dripps, D. (2013). "Dearest Property": Digital Evidence And The History Of Private "Papers" As

Special Objects Of Search And Seizure. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), 103(1), 49-109. 

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Lamdan, S. (2015). Social Media Privacy: A Rallying Cry to Librarians. The Library Quarterly:

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Price, J. (2013). Canada, white supremacy, and the twinning of empires. International

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Sherman, L. (2013). The Rise of Evidence-Based Policing: Targeting, Testing, and

Tracking. Crime and Justice, 42(1), 377-451.

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Advancements Shape Criminal Justice Professions. Criminology Careers Daily

Warde, B. (2013). Black Male Disproportionality in the Criminal Justice Systems of the USA,

Canada, and England: A Comparative Analysis of Incarceration. Journal of African American Studies, 17(4), 461-479.

May 02, 2023

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