OPP to use 'digital canvas' in hunt for Toronto man's killer

A new investigative tool being rolled out by the OPP on Thursday is drawing the attention of privacy advocates.

The so-called "digital canvas" will be employed to help detectives collect information that they hope will lead them to a killer.

The body of 65-year old Frederick Hatch was found near Erin last December.

Police went to the courts to get permission to glean from a cell phone tower the cell numbers of people who were in the Ottawa-area neighbourhood where Hatch was last spotted alive.

Those people should expect to get a text message asking them to visit a website where they can voluntarily answer questions surrounding the killing.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says while this looks like a case where the judge made sure there were limits on the information authorities could collect, the courts should always keep the powers of the police in check.

"The orders cannot be overly broad, where police get to hoover up tons of information about anyone in the vicinity over a broad period of time," says interim director Laura Berger.

"The orders have to be minimally intrusive and narrow as possible."

Former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis thinks when it comes to investigative techniques, there's little difference between a fanning out a text message, and fanning out a team of police officers canvas door-to-door.

"It's one step above and beyond what we could do in the digital era," he says.