Toronto Police reportedly used IMSI catchers to identify threat against Mayor John Tory

Toronto Police used IMSI catchers five times in total since 2010, according to the Toronto Star

Mayor John Tory

City of Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters at an unrelated March 6th, 2018 press conference that he was made aware of TPS using IMSI catchers last year.

Toronto Police Services (TPS) used IMSI mobile phone trackers last year in order to identify an individual making threats against Tory, according to the Toronto Star.

“I wasn’t even really aware of the issue involving those machines, to be honest with you, I was just aware that they had access to the machine or they were available,” said Tory, in a response to a question posed by the Toronto Star, at the March 6th press conference.

Tory’s acknowledgement that he knew about TPS using cellphone trackers came mere days after the Toronto Star reported that it was able to obtain documents stating that TPS used IMSI catchers in five separate investigations since 2010 — even after the force claimed to not use the technology or even have access to it.

Tory also told reporters that he wasn’t aware that TPS had previously denied using IMSI catchers.

IMSI catchers work by mimicking nearby cell towers, enabling the devices to capture data transmitted by mobile phones. This includes location, call and SMS data, as well as subscriber identity keys.

IMSI catchers are also known as Stingray phone trackers, though the Stingray brand is a trademark of the Harris Corporation that manufactures the devices.

Apart from the obvious privacy concerns, IMSI catchers are also capable of potentially impeding 911 calls.

Unknown RCMP involvement

The RCMP has previously stated that it has used IMSI catchers in its own investigations.

In an email to MobileSyrup, the RCMP declined to comment on whether or not it worked with Toronto Police on cases that required the use of IMSI catchers.

“As Canada’s national police force, the RCMP uses various technical investigative tools and methods to lawfully obtain evidence in order to protect Canadians and advance serious criminal investigations,” an RCMP spokesperson told MobileSyrup.

“We also work closely with our policing partners to provide support and advice on major investigative files. To maintain the integrity of investigations, we do not disclose specific techniques or tools used in the course of a particular investigation.”

An Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) report also revealed that the RCMP used IMSI catchers without “exigent circumstances” six times out of 126 instances of surveillance.

MobileSyrup has reached out to TPS for comment. This story will be updated with a response.

Source: Toronto Star

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