Canada: Tower Dump Production Orders: Restricting Police Access To Cellular Records In R v. Rogers Communications


"Was the person at the Blue Jays game instead of at work?"  In his decision in R v. Rogers Communication1, Justice Sproat of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice used this innocuous hypothetical to illustrate the privacy interest that the Canadian public may have in their cellular telephone records.  In an age where the towers accessed by cellular telephones can indicate the user's geographic location to those with access to the data, an unauthorized day at the park can turn into seriously unwanted attention if there is a cellular telephone in your pocket.  But playing hooky from the office should be the least of the fears of the general public when it comes to police access to the records of cellular towers as part of an investigation. 

Pursuant to Section 487.014 of the Criminal Code, the police can request an order for production of these or any other computer records if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been or will be committed.  These types of requests are frequent.  In  2013 alone, Telus responded to 2,500 production orders and general warrants, and Rogers indicated that it produced 13,800 "files" in response to production orders and search warrants.2

"Tower Dump" Production Orders

"Tower dump" production orders occur when police organizations request the records pertaining to every user whose cellular phone connects to a certain tower or towers.  Each tower serves a specified geographical area, and each time a phone connects to that tower, a record is produced identifying the phone that connected, which can then be linked back to the account and account holder.  In effect, these records can be used, through tower dump production orders, to identify all users in the geographic area serviced by any particular tower.  These types of records are only one example of the many types of information that telecommunications service providers have about their users.

Tower dump production orders are especially useful to the police where a single suspect or group of suspects are believed to be involved in a string of crimes. Tower data can be used to demonstrate that those suspects were in the vicinity of the crime location at the time the crime was taking place.  Similarly, tower data may be used in single incidents where the police have reasonable grounds to believe that the perpetrator used a cell phone near the crime scene.  In either situation, the information obtained can be used to seek additional production orders.

R v Rogers Communications, 2016 ONSC 70

In R v. Rogers Communications, the Peel Regional Police obtained a production order against Telus and Rogers as part of the investigation of a string of jewelry store robberies.  The order sought production of all of the data from more than 21 Telus towers and 16 Rogers towers.  This data included the name and address of every subscriber making or attempting a call through any of those towers, the recipients of any of those calls if they were Telus or Rogers customers, as well as billing information.  In order to comply, Telus estimated that it would be required to disclose the personal information of at least 9,000 individuals.  Rogers estimated that it would be required to retrieve approximately 200,000 records related to 34,000 subscribers.

Telus and Rogers opposed the orders, arguing that the production orders violated their users' right against unreasonable search and seizure under Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  They argued that their customers had a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to their cellular records, and that the production orders went beyond what was necessary to collect the required evidence for the investigation.

Justice Sproat declared that Telus and Rogers had standing to assert the Charter rights of their subscribers, and that the production orders violated the subscribers' rights under Section 8.  As the Peel Regional Police had subsequently narrowed the scope of their investigation, this declaration was moot, but did present the opportunity to address the issue of tower dump production orders generally.

Justice Sproat declined to confine requests for production orders to "last resort" situations, where other techniques had failed, and held that placing general limitations on the availability of police investigation techniques is a matter best left to Parliament.  Similarly, he deferred to the legislature to determine the types of data protection safeguards that should be imposed on the police post-seizure.

Guidelines for Police Seeking Tower Dump Production Orders

In an attempt to aid police in tailoring further requests for tower dump production orders, Justice Sproat gave general guidelines for police.  These guidelines include:

(a) including a statement that the officer requesting the order is aware of the principle of minimal intrusion and tailored the request accordingly;

(b) explaining why all named locations or towers, as well as all time and date parameters, are relevant to the investigation;

(c)  explaining why all records sought are relevant;

(d) including any details or parameters that might allow the provider to conduct a narrower search and produce fewer records;

(e) requesting a report based on the specified data instead of a request for the underlying data itself;

(f) including a justification for requesting the underlying data instead of a report based on it; and

(g) confirming that the types and amounts of data requested can be meaningfully reviewed.


This decision indicates that the allowable scope of tower dump production orders should become narrower and less onerous in the future, lessening the prospect that telecommunications service providers will be required to indiscriminately produce large volumes of sensitive subscriber information to the police. But even if your geolocation records during work hours may now be less likely to make their way to your employer, it might still be a good idea to take a vacation day to see that ball game.


1 R v Rogers Communication, 2016 ONSC 70.

2 Ibid at para 10.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions