Wednesday, August 17, 2016

We Should All Be Very Concerned

Given the authorities' recent success in thwarting Aaron Driver's plans for a terrorist attack, I suspect that most Canadians are not too concerned about protecting their privacy rights. The fact that existing laws, legal surveillance and a timely tip from the FBI were responsible for stopping him should, however, be uppermost in our minds as a recent resolution by Canada's police chiefs and technology that allows for indiscriminate eavesdropping are now in the news.
Canada’s police chiefs want a new law that would force people to hand over their electronic passwords with a judge’s consent.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has passed a resolution calling for the legal measure to unlock digital evidence, saying criminals increasingly use encryption to hide illicit activities.
This law, by the way, would involve unfettered access to all electronic devices that are password-protected, including computers, tablets and cellphones, something that many would argue the state has absolutely no right to.

Thanks to some sleuthing done by my son, who sent me a series of links, you might also be shocked to know that our privacy rights are already being regularly violated by police in what would, in the old days, be called 'fishing expeditions.'

Motherboard reports the following:
The Edmonton Police Service owns a controversial surveillance device called a “Stingray” that indiscriminately surveils any cellphone within its multi-kilometre range, a police spokesperson confirmed on Thursday to Motherboard.
Previously the exclusive domain of the RCMP, these devices
force any phones within a target radius [usually several kilometers] to connect to the device and transmit identifying information. When a phone is caught by a Stingray, the police obtain the phone and SIM card IDs, as well as its location and service carrier. More recent Stingray devices are capable of intercepting voice and text communications. Stingrays surveil phones indiscriminately, leading some commentators to label them as “mass surveillance” devices.
Queries to a several other major police services were met with refusals to acknowledge their use, and now the Edmonton police are trying to backtrack. Police spokeswoman Anna Batchelor has issued a'retraction,' saying that
“there was some miscommunication/misunderstanding internally surrounding the information obtained on whether the EPS owns a StingRay, and in fact, the EPS does not own a StingRay device.”

She said it was police policy not to comment on “equipment used in electronic surveillance or on investigative techniques, therefore EPS cannot provide any further information on this topic.”
This feeble attempt at damage control should fool no one, nor should it lull us into a false sense of our privacy security. The problem is that we are currently dependent only on the honesty and goodwill of police departments to use such devices properly. For example, the Vancouver Police admit to using it only once, and records indicate that use was legitimate and authorized. But there are almost no legal safeguards to its legitimate deployment, as
we have absolutely no policy or regulatory response to police and intelligence agencies’ use of Stingrays despite the RCMP having had Stingrays for over a decade.
Contrast this lackadaisical approach with Germany, which has had federal regulation over such devices since 2002, stipulating the following:
-a warrant is required;

-Stingrays can only be used for investigation of serious crimes;

-Stingrays can only be used to determine suspects’ geo-location (not interception of communication’s content);

-the process must limit the collection of non-suspects’ data;

-non-suspects’ data cannot be used for any purpose other than confirming that it is non-suspects’ data and that this incidentally captured data must be deleted without delay;

-police use of Stingray is subject to reporting requirements for oversight and review.
Canadians, meanwhile, are being kept in the dark:
WE DO NOT KNOW whether warrants are always being sought or the nature of the warrants being applied for;

-WE DO NOT KNOW what judges are being told about the capacities of Stingrays with respect to the warrants being applied for;

-WE DO NOT KNOW if any minimization techniques are used to limit the collection of data of people who are not the targets of surveillance;

-WE DO NOT KNOW what is being done with the personal information of the thousands of people who are not the targets of legitimate police investigation.
Over the years I have tried to chronicle the myriad abuses of authority the police regularly engage in. In these fraught times, the temptation to take shortcuts, violate charter rights and generally abuse the citizenry is high. Now is not the time to give police even greater opportunity for intrusion into and violation of our lives. They need to work within tight and responsible constraints. To do otherwise should be unacceptable to all Canadians.


  1. The opportunity to deal with these problems readily presents itself in the re-writing of Bill C-51. I suspect, though, that most people will be too scared of "them" to worry about what you've brought to our attention. Lorne.

    1. That is precisely what I am worried about, Owen.

  2. There is something off about the Aaron Driver case Lorne. The RCMP by their own admission already knew he was a terrorist sympathizer, so why would they need the FBI to tell them? How much and what type of information on Canadians do we send to, or allow the FBI to have access to?

    Also, why would the terrorist warning about Aaron Driver come from the FBI and not the NSA.

    The RCMP also very quickly after killing Driver rushed to talk to the media and for quite a long time. The MSM played this clip off and on all day.

    There is something about the whole thing that felt staged. Yes Driver was a terrorist sympathizer, but why the big show. Saying the info came from the FBI make the RCMP look like incompetent key stone kops.

    There is something that does not ring true about the whole thing. I felt like we we're being groomed to accept bill C-51 after the Liberals make their changes to it. This terrorist incident will be fresh in people's minds.

    I think the Liberals want to keep bill C-51 intact, so the changes will be superficial. It is a piece of legislation that is unconstitutional and violates Canadian rights on a fundamental level.

    Trudeau has already shown that he has no problem violating Canadians rights when he went against Canadians right to be involved in the BDS movement. The US has already created legislation to prevent or stop people from using the BDS movement to oppose Israels occupation of Palestine. Trudeau will do something similar and it may be done through bill C-51.

    Instead of letting themselves be manipulate Canadians need to stop this police state piece of legislation that violates their rights to privacy, their rights to free speech and their rights to protest. This is just a few of our rights that bill C-51 violates.

    Bill C-51 will be used to stop any resistance when Trudeau ratifies the TPP and that means every other "trade" deal he wants to bring to ratification.

    Bill C-51 is simply an authoritarian tool that our government can use to stop Canadian dissent across the board.

    If Canadians do not speak up about this bill, their silence will be the same as giving up their freedom voluntarily.

    We live in a world now where governments of once thriving democracies turn against their own citizens by creating legislation that violates their freedom and rights and destroys their sovereignty. A world where governments acquire the power to control and rule over its people. Starting with Harper and continued with Trudeau, Canada has a government that has turned against and betrayed its own people.

    1. You raise some excellent points, as always, here, Pamela. Canadians need to be very, very concerned.

  3. I'm reminded of the John Allsop case. He's the guy who became a "person of interest" and received a visit from the RCMP after he'd called the Prime Minister's office stating his opposition to the Northern Gateway. Suppose Mr. Allsop had not foolishly communicated his objections to the pipeline directly to the Prime Minister, but had given himself away by voicing his concerns on some activist web site or to an associate via an email or by telephone. If no patriotic citizen would have come forward to expose him, we might not be aware of his identity or that he harboured such objections. Mr. Allsop would go completely under the radar. Rather than depending on the slip-ups of potential wrongdoers, with enabling legislation such as C-51 or the Lawful Access/Protection Against Child Predators Bill, our police can protect us from the possible designs of the John Allsops of Canada and from their potentially dangerous close associates, who otherwise might remain lurking in the shadows awaiting an opportunity to wreak havoc.

    Besides the obvious implications regarding public safety and security, we must also ask ourselves whether critics of the current legislation, as well as probably standing in support of child pornographers, are also standing in support of unpatriotic individuals whose objective is to confound the efforts of our leaders to ensure the viability of our economy.

    Enough of that.

    So the Edmonton police don't own the Stingray device. Then what caused the "miscommunication/misunderstanding"? Did they ever borrow of one of them, lease one or engage the services of a party to use one on their behalf? They've got us right where we belong: we don't know. But of course, if you have an objection, then just what have you got to hide? Maybe we should pull out your file for a review.

    If the Association of Chiefs of Police had its way, we'd all be walking around with UPC barcodes tattooed on our foreheads. Then the cops wouldn't have to waste time asking for date-of-birth every time they engage with a citizen.

    1. Your trenchant commentary is well-taken, John. All Canadians should understand that one of the foremost jobs of a healthy democracy is to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens, not facilitate their devolution. People may think they have nothing to hide now, but just wait until the flavour and complexion of our overseers change, as your example of John Allsop amply demonstrates.