The Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a report yesterday on his investigation of the RCMP's use of IMSI catchers, which can be used in law enforcement investigations to track cell phones and even intercept text messages and calls.
Good news is that RCMP appear to be acting in compliance with the laws and obtained warrants to intercept cell phones and text message in the majority of the situations. However, there were several incidents where warrants were not obtained on the basis of there being "exigent circumstances" - the potential for eminent loss of life or grievous bodily harm - that required quick action, according to the RCMP.
The importance of ensuring effective law enforcement and public safety or national security over the invasion of privacy has been a long and ongoing debate in all democratic countries. In Canada, with Charter rights against unreasonable search and seizure, the Courts have weighed in on the issue time and time again. And so, how these issues are weighed and the impact on privacy rights is a debate not likely to end anytime soon.
So how far should law enforcement agencies be able to infringe upon privacy rights for the purposes of public safety or national security? Do our laws adequately protect our privacy rights?
I'd like to hear your thoughts, send me a tweet (@foipguru) if you think our laws adequately protect our privacy rights.
Mobile device identifiers (MDI) — also referred to as IMSI catchers — work by mimicking a cellphone tower to interact with nearby phones and read the unique ID associated with the phone's International Mobile Subscriber Identity, or IMSI. That number can then be used to track the phone, and sometimes to intercept text messages or calls. Between 2011 and 2016 the RCMP used IMSI catchers in 125 criminal investigations, 29 of which were in support of other Canadian law enforcement agencies, the report from Daniel Therrien's office found.