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Federal Privacy Commissioner investigating potential RCMP use of Stingray surveillance devices

Complaint from OpenMedia calls for transparency and accountability for use of invasive cell phone surveillance technologies

April 13, 2016The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has launched a formal investigation into the potential use of Stingray surveillance devices (technically known as IMSI-catchers) by the RCMP. The investigation was triggered by a complaint filed by OpenMedia’s digital rights specialist Laura Tribe.

Stingrays mimic cell phone towers and are designed to collect information from every cell phone in a given area, including geo-location and content data. The devices are also capable of listening in on private phone conversations. People whose data is captured by a Stingray device receive no notification, and have no way of challenging the intrusion on their privacy. A number of police forces in the U.S., including the FBI and NYPD, have admitted to using Stingrays, but to date no Canadian police force has done so.

OpenMedia’s digital rights specialist Laura Tribe had this to say: “For some time, Canadians have been calling for answers from the RCMP and other police forces across Canada about the use of these invasive cell phone surveillance devices. Stingrays enable wholesale monitoring of our most intimate moments, and undermine our privacy and security.”

Tribe continued: “We hope this investigation sheds light on the use of these devices, so that Canadians can have an open, and transparent debate about whether their use can be justified in a democratic society. After all, you wouldn’t let police into your home without a warrant. Why would you let them into your phone?”

The complaint from Laura Tribe was filed with the OPC on March 3, 2016. Correspondence from the OPC dated April 1, 2016 informed OpenMedia that the RCMP had been notified of the complaint and asked to respond.

Last month, OpenMedia filed a detailed policy intervention regarding the perils of Stingray technologies to the B.C. Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, as a part of its  investigation into the Vancouver Police Department’s failure to respond to access to information requests on the subject.

Over 28,000 people have already called for an end to Stingray surveillance at, a campaign launched by OpenMedia and over 30 other organizations around the world.

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet. Take action now

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