iPhone Thief Off The Hook Due To Privacy Laws

Kirk Darch and his daughter Katelyn Photograph by: Jean Levac , Ottawa Citizen

Kirk Darch and his daughter Katelyn
Photograph by: Jean Levac , Ottawa Citizen

Kirk Darch bought his daughter, Katelyn, a brand new $900 iPhone 5 last summer for her 16th birthday. The iPhone was stolen from the mailbox of their Blossom Park home in late August, then sold by the thief. On the way out of her house, Katelyn, left the phone in her mailbox when she noticed her iPhone’s battery was dead.

Darch is more concerned about the thief that stole the iPhone from the mailbox then he is about the person the thief sold the phone to. Katelyn said she has a pretty good idea of who the suspect is, one of three male teenage acquaintances she ran into shortly after she left.

The Ottawa Citizen reports, police told Darch that the only way they can charge the culprit is if the person who bought the iPhone from the thief verified who it was.

Darch reported the theft to Telus and had the iPhone cancelled from his account. A short time later, he found out from Telus that the iPhone was being operated with a new SIM card by a new account holder. Telus told Darch, the cellphone was the one he reported stolen. Darch says he was then told to tell police that Telus has the information necessary to help the investigation, including name and address of the person using the iPhone.

Darch said that when the police contacted Telus, they were less than accommodating. Due to a federal privacy legislation, Telus told the detective that he would have to get a court order before they could provide any information.

As a result, police decided that it was not worth the effort to continue with the case. The case was closed. Darch, being angry at the outcome, said:

“(Telus) knows the phone belongs to me. I bought it. I bought it directly through them … They wouldn’t give the name of who currently had the phone to the Ottawa police.”

With the case being closed, Darch asked Telus to deactivate the phone. To his astonishment, Telus said “No, I’m sorry, we can’t do that. These people have a valid contract with us.”

Chris Gerritsen, a Telus spokesman, said:

“We respect our customers’ privacy and we take great care to safeguard their personal information, and that means we don’t turn customer information over without a court-ordered warrant. We’re not a judicial body. We can’t make a judgment on whether this phone was lost or stolen or given away, but a judge can.

There’s a line between shutting a phone off (and) giving customer info. We give info to the police through court order … We will work with our customer to help resolve it.

We’re not the bad guy in this. We regularly assist law-enforcement agencies in obtaining customer information they need for an investigation, but only when we’re ordered by court to do so.”

Darch was not impressed at all with the explanation.

“It’s just atrocious … that this company is basically blowing me off … They’re not acting in good faith, and it is just not morally correct.”

In an email sent on Thursday by Rogers spokeswoman, Patricia Trott, explains that Rogers takes the security and privacy of their customers very seriously.

“Our policy is that a properly executed warrant is required to disclose customer’s information to law enforcement. The only exemption to this strictly-enforced policy is in emergency situations where there is an immediate threat of bodily harm or death.”

In another email sent on Friday, Trott says that Rogers now uses an international database to keep track of stolen cellphones. If the phone is reported stolen, the service provider can take the phone out of commission even if the SIM card is replaced. Rogers says that they will provide police with the name and address of the person with the stolen phone if and only if it is on Rogers’ network. Police will require a court order to obtain any other information.

A few weeks ago, Darch emailed Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau and The Public Citizen, outlining his frustration. Last week Bordeleau replied to the email saying:

“Chiefs of police across Canada have been advocating to have our current laws changed to facilitate the sharing of this type of information from the service providers. However, new legislation dealing with lawful access has not been passed.

So we are left with the cumbersome and very costly processes to seek information such as the one in your case. The reality is that with the resources we have available, we have to prioritize our work based on solvability factors and seriousness of the offences.”

Bordeleau promised to have Darch’s file reviewed. Earlier this week, Darch was contacted by the dectective who has been assigned to this case, meaning they are going to restart the investigation after all.

The police plan to get a court warrant so Telus will be forced to give the name and address of the person who has Katelyn’s very expensive iPhone.

You can’t help to feel Darch’s frustration over Canadian privacy laws which, in his case, ignored him and has done a good job of protecting the thief.

A technology enthusiast and Computer Science student. Follow me on Google+

  • taguntumi

    Not sure where Rogers comes in. Started with Telus. Makes the story hard to follow.

  • anonymous

    I think they also contacted Rogers to see if they have the same policy as Telus. That is what I understood but I could be wrong

  • Nick

    It’s to compare Telus to another Canadian carrier and their policies.

  • Panoras

    What some people do for some reputation is unbeleavable.

  • einsteinbqat

    The only thing wrong here is that the police did not go ahead, and asked for a court order. They know it. It’s the law here. You need a court order. Period.

  • Dan

    Interesting story, important issue, horrible writing. Started to lose me at the beginning with the mailbox. What happened? I don’t get it.

    Important thing to remember: Rogers, Telus and Apple have no incentive to assist police. If you phone is stolen you have to buy another one. More revenue for them!
    The financial incentive is for the carriers and manufacturers to make it as difficult as possible to keep a database of stolen phones, or track them down, even as the engineers have designed a phone with GPS, unique identification information and other features that would make it possible for every stolen phone to be instantly tracked and retrieved by police.

    Crime rates are way down in the last 10 years. This kind of crime is the only thing that’s on the rise. If police want to justify their insanely high budgets, its about time they got to work solving this kind of crime. It would also be a PR win for them, in a time when police are not held in high regard by the public.

  • taguntumi

    There was a suggestion last week that US carriers were unwilling to work with Samsung on a kill switch for the very reason you suggest. They want to continue selling insurance – they have an interest in phones being stolen.

    Apple I think, and obviously it appears Samsung, don’t appear to be as cynical as you suggest. I believe from iOS7 you need the AppleID to activate a stolen phone.

  • Al

    I just quickly scan stories written by Nick as his poor writing skills frustrate me. I guess basic high school composition ability isn’t a requirement for a blog.

  • taguntumi

    You would be committing fraud and could expect a visit from the RCMP. If they could find the time. This would be the same with any other item.

    I think the real issue here is that police have stopped investigating crime, so you might be OK!

  • fsfsfs

    I actually think these laws preventing the sharing of customer information is a good thing.

    I don’t want my ISP/Phone Carriers/Credit Card companies to share any confidential information about my activities unless there is clear reason to do so. Of course in this case, the police should have continued with the court order. If obtaining a court order to catch a theif is so much work, that it isn’t worth it for a theif who steals a $900 device, then THAT is what needs to change.

    Also, Telus should have deactivated the phone IMO.

  • Nelsh

    I think you are a bit short sighted in your final point. Yes, it does suck that Katelyn lost her phone, but the legislation is there to protect the public from unauthorized access to a person’s information. Based on these privacy laws, there is nothing that Telus, or any provider, can do unless they want to be sued for violating their custodianship their clients’ personal information. Penalties for such breaches are becoming pretty harsh. I’m glad that Telus upheld the person’s privacy despite a somewhat compelling story – although I’m not too clear about how she can rationalize leaving her phone in the mailbox. Seems a bit silly to me.

    The real point here is that the police closed the case and chose not to follow up on it. It’s good to see they are going to obtain a court order and hopefully catch the thief.

  • Canada

    I 100% support Telus in their decision not to release the customers private information, as others here have said these laws are in place to protect us. While I am a huge supporter of the police I don’t feel they should have open access to our private information it is their job to investigate and provide evidence for access to such information. We are supposed to live in a society that claims innocent until proven guilty more and more it seem we are guilty until proven innocent!

    I have to ask myself why anyone would leave their $900 iPhone in their mailbox instead of putting it back into their house? I have a hard time feeling sorry for them, don’t get me wrong it’s a shame her iPhone was stolen but it’s her own fault for leaving her phone in such a (for lack of a better word) stupid location!

  • InABox

    If that was an Android user, there ain’t no way in h377 would they LEAVE THEIR DEAD PHONE IN THEIR MAILBOX. Stupid is as stupid does!

  • Ari

    Obviously since Rogers has a different policy then Telus is knowingly profiting from stolen property. Telus should be brought up on charges.

    If you want them to learn their lesson start tweeting and sharing this story around. Dragging the name of Telus through the mud is the only way to get them to change their behaviour.

    I cancelled my Optik and cellular service with them a while ago. Boycott Telus.

  • Ari

    Excuse me but that phone is stolen property. Telus should be charged with a crime for signing up a customer with a known stolen phone.

  • Nandos!

    I understand the frustration you have and I would be furious if it was my phone that was stolen and being used. However, according to this article, there is no real evidence (aside from people’s recollections) that the phone is stolen. It is merely here-say. Technically, you could sell the phone through a third party, collect the money, call Telus and file the same complaint. (Considering the questionable writing, it’s safe to say the media isn’t always 100% reliable in their reporting)

    Also, blaming Telus isn’t the answer here. You have to see the argument from both perspectives. Telus is a business that cooperates with authorities that are credited with the judicial right to facilitate such cases. Telus has not been mandated with policing stolen phones. No carrier does so on their own, they always work with companies/governments to do so.

  • Mr. Sparkle

    Yeah, the problem is that it wasn’t worth it for the Police department to proceed in getting a court order. That means they are either under resourced or the system for getting a court order for these stolen electronics cases needs streamlining (or both).

    Telus did nothing wrong… although letting the new user sign up with a reported stolen phone is a bit iffy in my books. They should have/work towards getting a system that flags phones as stolen and doesn’t let people bring their own device if has been reported stolen by a previous owner. That would help reduce the incentive to steal these devices. I definitely agree with them not openly sharing information without a definitive need (in this case a court order), risk of harm or risk of national security.

  • LogicGuy

    “Find My iPhone” app…. Look into it.
    Is a mailbox really a secure location to leave an expensive electronic device?

    Cell providers should not be allowed to activate ESN of phones which have been reported stolen.

  • nolies

    Buddy telus started to add esn for stolen device as of September. I don’t know if you can read but the phone was stolen last summer. If you bought a phone via internet and for some random reason a year later after already been a year into the contract you’re phone gets turned off with no legal right, would you just shrug your shoulders and accept it? I don’t think so, Telus hands are legally tied get over yourself.

  • Canada

    From reading your post it seems like you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder when it comes to Telus, most of what I have read and people I have talked to about this situation feel Telus has done the right thing. PROTECTING its users! Instead of asking companies to had over people’s private information maybe you should ask the police why they don’t feel this is worth pursuing?

  • Rio

    I don’t see the point you guys are making. So the phone is stolen and resold right? That means the person that bought the stolen phone is not going to buy the phone from apple/samsung. So either way, it makes no difference.

    The reason they don’t want to go to far with this is they do not want to scare the public with what they can do. If Apple says they are going to assist police by tracking everyones phone and providing names and addresses can you imagine the outcry?

    Not to mention the possible abuse. What happens when someone legitimately sells his phone online and then reports it stolen, who do you listen too?

    It is a lot bigger than about them making money.

  • Johnnyjohnny

    If the ESN of the phone has been reported, it should never have been activated. Its was against the company’s internal rules to even do it when i worked as a Telus Mobility call center person. You’re not supposed to activate a phone with an ESN that’s been flagged as stolen. There have been cases where people have called in from pawnshops to check if the phone they were looking at had a flagged ESN, and it was standard procedure to tell them that if it was flagged, we weren’t going to activate it on their account. Now, if this has changed, and its been several years since i’ve left Telus, then this is sad.

  • David Etienne

    I think the obvious lesson here is DON’T LEAVE YOUR PHONE IN YOUR MAILBOX

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca/ Gary

    Nailed it.

  • Paul

    I’m sorry, but this dude’s daughter is an absolute moron for leaving the phone in the mailbox. Why did she do that? If it was dead, put it back in the house on the charger, not in your mailbox.