In a breathtaking admission, the RCMP say they’ve secretly used spyware on Canadians’ devices to get audio and visual recordings of Canadians without their knowledge.
According to Politico, the RCMP claim they only use such spyware in the most “serious cases,” such as when there are national security concerns. However, this is the first time the RCMP has openly admitted that they infiltrate mobile devices to collect data, despite having access to the technology for years.
Their admission came after a Conservative MP questioned what government programs are used to gather data on Canadians last week.
“This is a kind of capability that they have done everything possible to keep incredibly quiet,” said UofT senior research associate Christopher Parsons.
“This is a remarkable finding and, for the first time, publicly reveals that the RCMP is using spyware to infiltrate mobile devices, as well as the broad capabilities of their spyware.” Parsons continues, saying that many security experts have been aware of these capabilities but that this is the first time the RCMP has admitted it. He added that this “is the cleanest, most straightforward explanation of what they’re capable of doing that I’m aware of.”
The RCMP claims it only used this technology in 10 investigations between 2018 and 2020.
According to the submitted RCMP document, the decision to use spyware to infiltrate Canadians’ personal devices is in response to new encryption services that make it difficult for officers to conduct court-authorized electronic surveillance.
“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,” the document reads.
“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.”
As for the scope of the spyware used, the technology can gather pictures, videos, calendar entries, financial records, audio recordings, text messages, private communications, and “photographic images of persons, places and activities viewable by the camera(s) built into the targeted device.”