Court documents provided in a case before the Quebec Court of Appeal indicate that Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) used advanced technology to spy on mobile phones in a criminal investigation on organized crime. The Crown is attempting to keep the details of the technology secret at a hearing scheduled for March 30. Citizen Lab Postdoctoral Fellow Christopher Parsons spoke to the Globe and Mail about the case, and said that this “wouldn’t be the first time [these devices] have been used – but it would be the first time [authorities] have been caught out in court.” He explained that inevitably, the public would want to know the details of the technology used in the investigation. “These are fundamentally devices of mass surveillance,” he said. Moreover, he explained that their use in this context indicated that “authorities using them will also be collecting information about law-abiding Canadians.”
Defence lawyers have suggested that the technology used by the RCMP works to mimic a cell tower and thus could be used to manipulate other devices in a given radius to give up data to police. It is unclear whether the technology used collects metadata, or whether they can intercept voice conversations and the content of text messages as well.