According to a report by CBC News, a London, Ontario court case will soon determine how far the law enforcement agencies may be allowed to reach into a user’s Facebook account for investigative purposes. The case involves Facebook messages that London police want to use as evidence in a murder investigation and trial.
Although the London police have filed a production order to Facebook Canada asking for the data, the social media giant has said it doesn’t have to abide by Canadian production orders because it’s an American company that stores its data in the United States.
The publication notes that Facebook instead wants the Canadian authorities to go through the so-called mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) process, which requires Canadian authorities to request the FBI to compel Facebook to give up data, a process that can take up to a year:
“There is conflicting law on this question, and it really comes down to how broadly do you read the production order power in the Criminal Code to apply to persons or companies outside of Canada who store data outside of Canada, as opposed to insisting that law enforcement go through the traditional treaty process established by the MLAT process,” said Gerald Chan, a Toronto-based criminal and constitutional lawyer who focuses on digital privacy.
Chan also said that the case is of huge precedential importance both for police and for tech companies like Facebook.
The homicide case is currently on hold as lawyers argue about the virtual evidence.