April 26, 2018 2:36 pm

Defence lawyer ‘optimistic’ case of alleged breach of government site will end

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A lawyer who represents a young Halifax man alleged to have breached a government freedom-of-information website says he’s optimistic police will see the case is too weak to continue.

David Fraser, a privacy lawyer who accepted the 19-year-old’s defence, said today that after meeting with the youth, he’s further convinced the man was merely downloading information he believed to be in the public realm.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s auditor general to perform audit after province’s data breach

He says the youth unknowingly gathered some personal information last month that the province should have taken basic steps to protect, and the youth and his family are in a state of anxiety as a criminal investigation continues into its third week.

Premier Stephen McNeil initially referred to the man’s actions in downloading 7,000 files as “stealing,” as his government faced opposition criticism for its alleged failure to ensure sensitive information on the site was properly protected with passwords and firewalls.

He’s since backed away from this strong language.

WATCH: Halifax police make arrest after Nova Scotia FOI website breached, personal information exposed

Fraser said in an interview he took the young man’s case in part because he fears groups ranging from journalists to archivists could face criminal charges for searching public websites and inadvertently collecting information governments haven’t properly sealed off.

Police said after an April 11 search of the residence where the young man and his family live, they arrested the man based on an allegation he’d violated criminal code provisions prohibiting unauthorized access to a computer.

READ MORE: Stephen McNeil rejects N.S. Opposition’s call for minister’s resignation over data breach

However, Supt. Jim Perrin of the Halifax police has also said the investigation is ongoing, no information has been laid before the court and that the police force would have “more to say” on the case.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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