Police can search your cell phone when they arrest you

The Supreme Court just released their decision in R. v. Fearon, about whether police can search a person’s cell phone when they arrest the person. The Court found (in a 4-3 decision) that, in general, police can do such a search, as long as they follow certain conditions:


Four conditions must be met in order for the search of a cell phone or similar device incidental to arrest to comply with section 8 of the Charter:

  • First, the arrest must be lawful.
  • Second, the search must be truly incidental to the arrest. This requirement should be strictly applied to permit searches that must be done promptly upon arrest in order to effectively serve the law enforcement purposes.  In this context, those purposes are protecting the police, the accused or the public; preserving evidence; and, if the investigation will be stymied or significantly hampered absent the ability to promptly conduct the search, discovering evidence.
  • Third, the nature and the extent of the search must be tailored to its purpose.  In practice, this will mean that only recently sent or drafted emails, texts, photos and the call log will, generally, be available, although other searches may, in some circumstances, be justified.
  • Finally, the police must take detailed notes of what they have examined on the device and how they examined it.  The notes should generally include the applications searched, the extent of the search, the time of the search, its purpose and its duration.  The record‑keeping requirement is important to the effectiveness of after‑the‑fact judicial review.  It will also help police officers to focus on whether what they are doing in relation to the phone falls squarely within the parameters of a lawful search incident to arrest.

Beyond that, in this particular case, it seems to get a little complicated. They find that the police did not meet all of these conditions – there was no evidence about precisely what was searched and why — so there was a breach of the defendant’s s. 8 rights. However, as a remedy of that breach, the Court found that the reasons to include the evidence (despite the breach) outweighed the reasons to exclude it. An example of the Court’s reasoning on this point (emphasis added):

[94] Of course, the police cannot choose the least onerous path whenever there is a gray area in the law. In general, faced with real uncertainty, the police should err on the side of caution by choosing a course of action that is more respectful of the accused’s potential privacy rights.  But here, if the police faced a gray area, it was a very light shade of gray, and they had good reason to believe, as they did, that what they were doing was perfectly legal.

The decision was 4-3. The dissenting justices basically made a privacy argument:

 [T]he weighty privacy interest that an arrested person has in a personal digital device will outweigh the state interest in performing a warrantless search incident to arrest, except in exigent circumstances…. Here, the searches of F’s phone were not justified and unreasonably infringed his privacy, in violation of s. 8  of the Charter . The facts of this case fall far below either standard for exigency…. The evidence which was unconstitutionally obtained should be excluded.

Robertson screw patent bound with Robertson screws

When Canadian inventor Peter Robertson filed his 1909 Canadian patent for the now ubiquitous Robertson screw (patent 116463), he bound the patent application using his new screws. You can see them in the scans in the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s database:

Canadian Patent Document 116463. Claims page. Image 1 of 1

That’s dedication to a new invention.

Robertson was also granted a patent by the US patent office, but their scans are cleaner and don’t show the binding.

Deep Sea Fauna… with Googly Eyes

Deep Sea Fauna… with Googly Eyes

It seems silly, but… well, it is. A tumblr of photos of deep sea creatures improved with googly eyes? Yes please.

When bisons are bullies – Boing Boing

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo’ is a grammatically correct sentence in American English

via When bisons are bullies – Boing Boing.


In 2013, Mayor Bloomberg asked designers to reimagine the city’s decrepit pay phones as internet-flinging, ad-spitting future machines. The winners were simply design concepts, never truly destined for reality. Now, the city is moving forward with the plan to retrofit its pay phones, after all.

NYC Will Turn 7,000 Old Payphones Into a Huge, Free Wi-Fi Network

In 2013, Mayor …

On managing emotions vis a vis Canada’s Anti-spam Legislation

“Take a few minutes to bang your desk, raise your fists in the air, shout out some curse words, and any other action that you should probably do with your office door closed,” the guide states. “You don’t want to be harboring this rage going forward since you want to be focused on what you have to do, not being mad that you have to do it.”

via New anti-spam law ‘a big deal’ for small businesses – The Globe and Mail.


First teach kids to be creative

Some rights reserved by BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives, licensed under the Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 licence.

The US copyright industry is apparently drafting elementary school curriculum to teach kids that copying is wrong. But, as Jane Park points out,

This message is way too simple. In this digital age, the most important thing we should be teaching kids is to be creative and take full advantage of all the web has to offer. Copyright, asking permission, open licensing, and all the other legal nuances, should be seen as secondary (and even complementary) to this purpose. We should be starting with the things kids can do versus what they can’t do.

via Open curriculum alternatives to MPAA’s new anti-piracy campaign for kids – Creative Commons.

Feel safe knowing websites only store hashes of your passwords? You’re not.

As Ars Technica writes, even if you use complex passwords and a hacked website only stores password hashes (not actual passwords), passwords are terrifyingly easy to figure out from hashes. As this article says, “with the hashes exposed, users should presume their passwords are already known to the attackers.”

To protect yourself, you need to use third party authentication like openid and two-factor authentication whenever they are available, as well as a password manager to generate and keep track of very long random passwords.

Otherwise, it looks like you should assume your password will get hacked.

Read the story here: Anatomy of a hack: How crackers ransack passwords like “qeadzcwrsfxv1331” | Ars Technica.

The Sharing Economy

The Technology Quarterly section of last week’s issue of the Economist carried two articles on what they call “the sharing economy”, the category of electronic commerce that’s more peer-to-peer than B2B or B2C. Sites like airbnb.com let people rent out places to stay — whether it is a spare sofa or a full house. Sites like relayrides.com let people rent out their cars. and other sites let people rent out almost anything else they own.

The rise of the sharing economy is their cover story and provides an overview of these sites.

All eyes on the sharing economy is a longer article that goes more into the challenges the “sharing economy” faces, including regulatory hurdles.

I don’t know what the regulatory landscape looks like for all of these in Canada. It looks like airbnb is available in Canada (you can rent a room in Ottawa for $40/night or an apartment in Hintonburg for $71), but they likely make use of whatever legal structure has developed around Bed & Breakfasts. Car lending/renting may be more complicated in Canada, because the car rental services don’t appear to be available here yet.

It feels a bit like crowdfunding, which has been slow to develop in Canada partly because of (real or perceived) regulatory obstacles, but is a truly disruptive

What do you think? Is peer-to-peer lending potentially disruptive to more traditional rental markets? Will it develop into an important segment of the economy? Can existing regulatory frameworks already accommodate peer-to-peer renting in Canada?

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