Police admitted to snooping – activists

Canada’s law enforcement has reportedly confirmed it’s been using malware to infiltrate mobile devices and collect data

Canada’s Royal Mounted Police (RCMP) have disclosed that they use spyware to infiltrate mobile devices and collect data, according to a public statement made on Thursday by a Canadian rights organization.

The country’s Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) claims it found the revelation buried in a document presented to the Canadian Parliament on June 22, 2022. The RCMP’s admission reportedly came in response to lawmakers questioning the government’s use of surveillance on Canadian citizens. According to the CCLA this is the first instance of a Canadian police force admitting that it used controversial surveillance tools for targeted investigations.

The document was previously reported by Politico, which stated that the RCMP’s Covert Access and Intercept Team (CAIT) used “on-Device Investigative Tools”Remotely collect text, email, photos, videos and financial information. You can also remotely turn microphones on targeted devices. According to reports, the warrant was obtained only once and used in 10 investigations from 2018 through 2020. It is also noted that Canada’s privacy commissioner was not consulted on the use of such methods.

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A protester waves a Canadian flag in front of parked vehicles in Ottawa. © AP / Justin Tang
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According to reports, the national police stated that encryption was the main reason they used these techniques. “In less than a generation, a high number of Canadians migrated their daily communications from a small number of large telecommunication service providers, all of which provided limited and centrally controlled services to customers, to countless organizations in Canada and elsewhere that provide a myriad of digital services to customers.”

“That decentralization, combined with the widespread use of end-to-end encrypted voice and text-based messaging services, make it exponentially more difficult for the RCMP to conduct court-authorized electronic surveillance,”Politico reported that the disclosure was made.

However, the CCLA pointed out that it does not clarify what types of investigations warranted the use these intrusive instruments, what particular tools the agency resorted too, and who provided them. 

“Is it one of the many vendors of spyware known for selling such tools to authoritarian states who use it to target human rights defenders and journalists? How were the authorization and internal decisions made to allow this nuke option for Canadian surveillance? Why was the Privacy Commissioner not consulted when the invasiveness and controversial nature of such tools on the world stage is explicit and well known?,”CCLA.

It has called on all parties to be transparent about the situation and encouraged open dialogue. “appropriateness of the use of such tools”as well as legal frameworks and safeguards to guarantee accountability when these tactics are used against Canadian citizens.



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