The growing world of technology in the contemporary world has introduced many high tech surveillance equipment like the “Stingrays” which has been adopted by the police to tap into our cellphone conversations and text messages without any notice or warnings. Stingrays are becoming quite popular in the developed western countries of America and Europe which work by scooping up the signals of the cellphones of the nearby people.
However, two of Canada’s largest police forces are denying the use of such spyware among their tasks. Both the Royal Canadian Mounted force and Ontario Provincial Police have denied the adoption of any such device as the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) as they referred to this as an intervention between their ongoing investigations. The RCMP totally refused to cooperate during their statement and even refused to explain how stingrays are being used in their task forces. When a local website used the access of the Information Act to request the information regarding the technology, the police force launched a statement stating that such information is exempted from disclosure under this act.
Stingrays electronically mimic cellphone towers and trick cellphones into connecting with them. After the connection is made, the spyware downloads all data from the cellphone including phone calls, text messages, contacts and even websites visited in a short span of time. The privacy Commissioner of Ontario stated that the technology having a range of several kilometers doesn’t distinguish between suspects in criminal cases and ordinary citizens. Canadian Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology, Ian Kerr, mentioned the adoption of stingrays by the police as a matter being kept in the dark and how it might impact the privacy of ordinary citizens. Even though the police won’t release a statement regarding the use of stingrays in Canada, many Defense lawyers in Canada have spoken of stingrays being widely used in the United States. Later, the Ontario privacy commission neither upheld nor denied the use of stingrays by the Ontario police.
When a local website thestar.com mentioned about the June 2014 ruling about access to information request by someone who seek stingray record purchases could cost up to $100,000. After this ruling was brought to the attention of the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, he stated that his office would not shield the police forces from being questioned about the surveillance any further. Later, in the light of this ruling, Ontario police spokesperson issued a statement with the website mentioning that the task force has no stingrays among its units. This email was released after he mentioned about making inquiries about this spyware which was not on any of the units. However, this was also stated by Ian Kerr about him not buying into other police forces of not using the stingray technology and mentioning it as revealing general information about this spyware’s adoption could lead to interference with their ongoing tasks. He also mentioned that if the police possess such technology then they should release such information about its usage and the safeguarding of information of ordinary citizens.