Canada Two years after denying it, Toronto police admit to using Stingray cellphone snooping device

17:52  05 march  2018
17:52  05 march  2018 Source:   Metro News

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The RCMP did, however, admit to using the devices for years without permission, which it only got two months ago. One comment on “Mounties admit to using cellphone - snooping ‘ stingrays ’”.

Regulate police use of cellphone - snooping devices , rights advocate says. VPD admits to not owning a Stingray surveillance device , but is it 'borrowing' one? Is the RCMP using Stingray devices to spy on cellphone users?

Toronto police used IMSI catcher during its gang and gun investigations called Project Rx and Project Battery.: Two years after denying it, Toronto police admit to using Stingray cellphone snooping device© Provided by Free Daily News Group Inc Two years after denying it, Toronto police admit to using Stingray cellphone snooping device

After denying use of the controversial technology, documents obtained by the Star show that the Toronto Police Service has used the cellphone data-capturing device known as an IMSI catcher, or Stingray, in five separate investigations.

IMSI catchers capture identifying data from all mobile devices being used in a given location — including, in the context of a police investigation, the data of innocent citizens in the vicinity of the target.

In December 2015, a Toronto police spokesperson told the Star: “We do not use the Stingray technology and do not have one of the units.”

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But Is It Legal? An appeals court sounds the alarm on Stingray devices . Brandon E. PattersonApr. Last year , USA Today identified nearly 2 ,000 Baltimore cases wherein the police used Stingrays to make arrests, usually without a warrant.

Essentially, a StingRay device pretends to be a cell phone tower, tricking all phones within a large The letter admits , however, that it was only in September of this year that the Department of Justice mandated that federal Police ‘Don’t Know’ Why Rape Is Up 20 Per Cent in Sadiq Khan’s London.

The documents, which took more than two years to obtain through an access-to-information request and subsequent appeal with the province’s information commissioner, say otherwise. They show that Toronto police used the technology in investigations ranging from a major drug and gun case to a bank robbery to a missing person case, starting in 2010.

Asked why the spokesperson, Const. Craig Brister, said Toronto police did not use the device and then why police failed to correct the record, Mark Pugash, head of communications for the service, said: “We should have.”

Brenda McPhail, a privacy, technology and surveillance expert with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), said there has been a long-standing lack of transparency surrounding police use of the devices.

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The StingRay enables police to determine a cellphone ’s location by posing as a cellphone tower. But it collects data on nearly every cellphone near it , not just criminals’ phones , raising privacy concerns. Kansas City police say they have used the device nearly 100 times since buying it in 2011.

The department, legally boxed into a corner over its use of a device known as the StingRay , finally admitted to acquiring the cell - phone tracking product last summer, six years after actually buying the thing.

“It’s troubling that it took a freedom of information request to confirm, despite past denials, that the (Toronto police) have been using IMSI catchers,” McPhail said.

An IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity) catcher, also known as a mobile device identifier, is a controversial tool because it is indiscriminate in whose mobile device is affected. The technology essentially mimics a cellphone tower, tricking all phones within a particular range to go through it. It can be used to pinpoint the location of a specific phone with far more accuracy than data that can be obtained from a mobile provider like Bell or Rogers.

The device also has the ability to capture other data such as numbers dialed from a phone or text messages, and some can eavesdrop on calls and jam phones to prevent them from being used. Police services that have admitted to using the technology, including the RCMP, have claimed their equipment does not capture private communications, and documents obtained by the Star suggest the same is true for Toronto police.

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It 's no secret that the FBI uses Stingrays —" cell -site The American Civil Liberties Union has detailed law enforcement use of the devices , which have been ruled unconstitutional in two states, at length. Stingrays work by allowing police to track the movement of a suspect, and are often used without a

In the recent years , Stingrays have moved from military and national security applications to routine police use . It is not just the cell phone users who are unaware of this type of snooping ; even the network carriers do not know a Stingray device is working.

Although police say it’s a vital investigative tool that has been used in cases involving national security, serious organized crime and more, privacy experts have long decried the secrecy surrounding the device and its use.

“This is a form of mass surveillance,” said Chris Parsons, of the University of Toronto’s Citizenlab.

“It’s a far more intrusive and invasive technology as compared to other tools that are available to law enforcement.”

Asked what Toronto police does with any data from citizens captured through the use of an IMSI catcher, Pugash said the service “does not get third-party data.”

When the Star questioned Pugash further, given that the devices temporarily attract data from cellphones other than those used by the intended target, he said he was unable to answer because the service does not own such a device.

Pugash would not say whether the force had partnered with another police agency that owns the device, such as the RCMP. The Mounties admitted, in a rare press briefing on the devices last year, to owning 10 IMSI catchers.

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The Edmonton police 's comment to Motherboard is the first time a local police department in Canada has publicly admitted to owning a Stingray device . "We have to assume, having made this investment, that they've used it more than once".

Stingrays CAN'T target one person. Stingray I/II Ground Based Geo If you like the Stingray , the Stingray , used in cellphone surveillance by Source: Toronto Star. Aug 12, 2016 Vancouver Police now acknowledges it has used the controversial mass-surveillance device known as a StingRay .

Documents obtained by the Star suggest that Toronto police requested the RCMP’s IMSI catcher on at least two occasions. (An RCMP spokesperson would not confirm to the Star that their device has been used by Toronto police, citing a policy not to disclose techniques used in specific investigations).

The documents released to the Star through access to information legislation state that Toronto police have used the device on five occasions. Specifics were not provided for two of those uses because “one of the incidents is currently before the courts and the other is still under investigation.”

The service also released a “general warrant” form that they say was used in at least one of the cases, a three-page document that sheds some light on the steps police say they take when using IMSI catchers.

It’s unclear if Toronto police had a warrant in all five cases. Pugash said the service would not use a IMSI catcher without judicial authority or urgent circumstances to prevent the loss of life.

Details for the remaining three incidents are sparse. The documents have been largely blacked out.

Available details, however, show the device was first used on May 2010. Officers put a trace on a phone of a missing man through Bell Mobility, locating it in Pickering. Durham police then checked the area “with negative results,” according to the documents. The man was later found.

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Last week, Motherboard reported that an Edmonton police spokesperson admitted the force owns and has used a StingRay device . A StingRay is a controversial piece of surveillance technology. It mimics a cell tower so nearby phones connect to it

The Edmonton Police Service owns a controversial surveillance device called a “ Stingray ” that indiscriminately surveils any cellphone within its These suitcase-sized surveillance tools have been used in the past by the Vancouver and Toronto police , but the Vancouver police have said they

In April 2013, following a bank robbery that involved two suspects armed with a rifle and a handgun, police tracked a cellphone stolen during the heist by using “tracking software installed on the phone.” After tracing the phone to an area near Eglinton Ave. and Weston Rd., one officer noted that the RCMP attended the area and “attempted to locate the phone” but were unsuccessful.

For the third occasion, Toronto police used the device in gang and gun investigations dubbed Projects Rx and Battery, probes that ran in 2013 and centred on two rival street gangs, the Asian Assassins and Sick Thugz. The documents note that Toronto police were granted a warrant authorizing the use of an IMSI catcher.

The general warrant, used by police to get permission from a judge to use the device, answers some questions about how police are proposing to employ the device, including their suggested solution to the issue of third-party data.

According to the document, police say that if the warrant were granted, a trained member of the RCMP would operate the device. That person would ensure investigators were given access to information only about the persons of interest, the warrant states.

What the warrant does not detail, however, is what would happen to the information about “every other innocent individual in the area every time it is activated,” McPhail said.

“The public deserves reassurance that that information is not retained,” she said.

Last year, a senior RCMP officer said all the data captured by their IMSI catchers is considered evidence and will be kept — though nothing except the target information would be accessed. The Ontario Provincial Police, which owns at least one IMSI catcher, has a similar protocol.

“The OPP seals and then destroys any collected data from non-targets (third parties) following court proceedings, including appeal periods and regulatory requirements for retention,” OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne wrote in an email.

Dionne would not confirm to the Star whether the OPP has ever worked with Toronto police on an investigation involving its IMSI catcher, but said the agency does “assist our municipal policing services when requested.”

The warrant also states that the device would be used as close as possible to the target to “limit the range of the surveillance device as much as is reasonably possible.

“This will reduce the number of mobile telephones which will be affected by the use of the (device),” the warrant states.

The device would also “not receive voice or audio communications and will not receive text messages or emails.”

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