Canadian police say device has ‘likely unlawfully intercepted’ messages from bystanders

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Canadian police say a device that functioned as a cellphone tower has “likely unlawfully intercepted” private text messages from unaware bystanders.

According to a Globe and Mail report, the issues stems from federal correctional officials originally launching a surveillance initiative in Warkworth Institution, near Peterborough, Ontario. The officials used a powerful cellphone-spotting device intended to locate contraband phones of inmates, which was operated by a contractor.

Specifically, OPP Detective Inspector Gerry Scherer wrote in an August investigative memo that the particular device was “capable of intercepting the SMS text messages of any mobile device operating within its operational range.” In using the device, however, officials also intercepted private messages sent from jail guards.

In his memo, Scherer said his probe determined six text messages had been intercepted, although no reasoning was given for why these particular texts were picked up.

He added that laptop seized by detectives showed records that the phone-tracking device had been switched on at least 2,200 times over a four-month period. As well, Scherer said that “some sessions may have been deleted” during this time.

However, the detective said that it seemed that the device captured only data such as IMSI numbers, which reveal a phone’s location but not private information on who is using them, or what they’re doing on it.

Legal and privacy experts have said this appears to be the first case in which a police device has violated Canada’s Criminal Code.

Nonetheless, Scherer said that he did not believe the officials nor the contractor should face criminal charges.  In his conclusion, he said: “Should charges in relation to the unlawful interception be laid, there would not be a reasonable prospect of conviction. As a result, the OPP will not proceed with the laying of charges at this time.”

Concerns regarding possible breach of Canadians’ privacy have been mounted as of late. Back in February, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said it was unsure how many Canadians were unsuspectingly caught in an illegal metadata collection program that ran for nearly 10 years.

Source: The Globe and Mail