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Canada's RCMP National Police Force Reveals Use of Secretive Cellphone Surveillance Technology ( 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The RCMP for the first time is publicly confirming it uses cellphone surveillance devices in investigations across Canada -- but at the same time says the potential of unauthorized snooping in Ottawa, as reported by CBC News, poses a threat to national security. The RCMP held the briefing in the wake of a CBC News investigation that found evidence that devices known as IMSI catchers may be in use near government buildings in Ottawa for the purpose of illegal spying. After shrouding their own use of the technology in secrecy for years, the RCMP took the unprecedented step of speaking publicly about the devices -- also known as Stingrays or Mobile Device Identifiers (MDIs) -- to address public concern amidst mounting questions about their use. The RCMP says that MDIs -- of which it owns 10 -- have become "vital tools" deployed scores of times to identify and track mobile devices in 19 criminal investigations last year and another 24 in 2015. [RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam] says in all cases but one in 2016, police got warrants. The one exception was an exigent circumstance -- in other words, an emergency scenario "such as a kidnapping," said Adam, whose office tracks every instance where an MDI has been used by the RCMP. He says using an MDI requires senior police approval as well as getting a judge's order. And he says the technology provides only a first step in an investigation allowing officers to identify a device. He says only then can police apply for additional warrants to obtain a user's "basic subscriber information" such as name and address connected to the phone. Then, he says, only if the phone and suspect are targets of the investigation can police seek additional warrants to track the device or conduct a wiretap to capture communications. Adam says the RCMP currently has 24 technicians trained and authorized to deploy the devices across Canada. He knows other police forces own and use them too, but declined to name them.
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Canada's RCMP National Police Force Reveals Use of Secretive Cellphone Surveillance Technology

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  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @08:28PM (#54182629) Homepage

    I've been following this story since it broke a few days ago and other than the period in 2015 when the RCMP got lax, their use of the Stingrays as well as the controls put in place for their use seems reasonable.

    Police are going to look for ways to monitor criminals' communications and this is one of the tools for doing that. As long there is a process where a judge approves the need for using the device and the rights and privacy of individuals caught as "incidental collections" is protected I don't see any problems here.

    Maybe I'm imagining a perfect world that organizations like the RCMP don't live in, but if devices like cellphones are out there, police organizations are going to want to tap/track/monitor them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I have a problem with the police effectively running their own base stations pretending to be a telco to see who connects.

      It is like trawling with a net, impacting everyone in the vicinity rather than just the intended target.

      If they have a warrant, why not have telcos collect and provide just the information authorised by a judge.

    • As long there is a process where a judge approves

      oooh "a process" that always results in approval and can't be questioned, almost as if it's really about reassuring police that they won't get in trouble even if they know what they are doing is wrong

    • by Imrik ( 148191 )

      I would be a lot less suspicious about stuff like this if they made this announcement when they first acquired the devices instead of when they got caught. Even if there is a legal warrant process, hiding them makes it look like they're doing something wrong.

    • by ddtmm ( 549094 ) on Thursday April 06, 2017 @09:55AM (#54184861)
      To me the concern is not that the RCMP has the ability to monitor and record all voice and text communications in a cell, it's that so can anyone else who has the equipment. The fact that it's happening in the capital among all the government buildings is pretty concerning as it could be foreign governments, or whoever, spying on the Canadian government. Spying in this generation is nothing like the cold war and James Bond days of the 60s and 70s. The RCMP spying on my phone is the last of my worries. This is pretty serious stuff.
    • This has interesting consequences in a legal system with no presumption of innocence.
    • As long there is a process where a judge approves

      Yeah, because it's really hard for the police to get a judge's approval []

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @10:20PM (#54183047)

    Things like this is why it's so utterly laughable that anyone is worried about ISP privacy.

    You have none; even the thin illusion of privacy we liked to maintain as a pleasant fiction had been shattered. Your TV is spying on you. Everyone in the world has access to your computer camera and microphone. The government long ago started recording every use of mobile devices along with location data.

    Lots of people, between government, corporations and criminals know everything about you. So why on earth are you worried about privacy? That ship has sailed. If you really cared you would disconnect; the FACT that perhaps .0000000001% of the people that say they care do anything of the sort exposes them for the laughable hypocrites they truly are.

    The only sane way forward is to proclaim that at least everyone's information is just as visible as yours, so why worry? When people say "dance like no-one is watching" it's not because people are not watching. It's because to be truly free anymore you must stop caring what others think of what you do, because "they" will know.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's such a defeatist attitude. Privacy is possible.

      -You can avoid Windows' data collection, and possibly some NSA backdoors, by using GNU/Linux exclusively
      -You can avoid googles' profiling by using a competing search engine: duckduckgo.
      -You can mitigate some of the danger of using webmail by using Protonmail
      -You can make the web far more private by disabling cookies and javascript then blocking ads. It breaks some webpages. I don't mind.
      -jabber + OTR encryption for messaging.
      -7zip actually has strong

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If there was any police force in the world that I would trust to follow proper procedures, its the RCMP. I'm not saying they're perfect, but they are the gold standard in procedural matters - so long as you're not aboriginal and living north of 60

  • Canada, a great place to visit but, not for the whole weekend. (Thanks Henry).
  • by Frederic54 ( 3788 ) on Thursday April 06, 2017 @09:43AM (#54184793) Journal

    Go in any Petro-Canada or Loblaws, buy cash an unlocked cellphone with a $25 voucher, and that's it, no name or address associated with the phone.

    You can also buy any used phone on kijiji and put a petro SIM inside, phone metadata will be connected to previous owner!

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten