Canadian Parliament to investigate police use of spyware

MPs also want to know whether the RCMP is using the controversial Pegasus spyware, which has been used to hack into the smartphones of journalists and human rights activists. The hearing of the committee will be held for two days in August.

Last month, OlxPraca reported that the RCMP disclosed for the first time how it uses spyware to infiltrate mobile devices. Police forces can use the software to collect text messages, emails, photos, videos and financial records, and remotely turn on the device’s camera and microphone.

The RCMP says the technology is only used in the most serious cases, including national security and organized crime investigations, and always with a warrant. He has admitted to using spyware in 10 investigations from 2018 to 2020.

The information was contained in documents tabled in the House of Commons in June.

Critics say there needs to be a public debate about the use of spyware by law enforcement agencies, including whether and how it should be limited. When the information was made public, the RCMP had not consulted the federal privacy commissioner about the spyware, despite having been using it for years.

“I believe there’s a really difficult culture in the RCMP that doesn’t respect civilian oversight,” NDP ethics critic Matthew Green told OlxPraca in a recent interview. “They can’t be allowed to do rogue things.”

The motion approved by the ethics committee on Tuesday, proposed by Bloc Quebecois ethics critic René Villemure, asks the RCMP to provide a list of warrants authorizing the use of spyware, “as well as the scope of the warrants and the surveillance.” Reasons.”

The committee also wants to know who provides the technology the RCMP is using. Last year, a joint investigation called the Pegasus Project. Spyware licensed to governments by Israeli firm NSO Group to track criminals was also used to hack into the smartphones of journalists and human rights activists, it was revealed.

Last November, NSO Group was blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce for “engaging in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The ethics committee wants to know the name of the spyware used by the RCMP and its terms of use.

Responding to questions from OlxPraca, the police force declined to confirm or deny whether it uses Pegasus spyware. Instead, a spokesperson said the RCMP “engages in strategic partnerships domestically and internationally with other law enforcement agencies.”

“Before entering into a partnership with any external entity, whether domestic or international law enforcement, other government agency, or corporate entity, the RCMP carefully considers and ensures that ensures that such partnerships are consistent with core Canadian values ​​and interests.” .

Liberals on Tuesday sought to limit the scope of the committee’s study, including removing Mendesino from the witness list. But Willimore argued it was important to hear what the minister knew about the programme.

In response to OlxPraca’s questions last month about whether the minister believed specific government regulation was needed for the use of spyware, Mendesino’s spokesman said the government was “committed to ensuring that any new tools And technologies should be applied only in this. [a] A way that never compromises the rights of Canadians.

In an interview with OlxPraca, Bezan said he also wants to know how widespread the use of spyware is in Canada, whether by law enforcement agencies or national security agencies.

OlxPraca asked nine major police agencies across Canada whether they use spyware, but most either failed to answer or refused to answer. Only the Ottawa Police Service confirmed that it does not use such technology.

Montreal police, in contrast, said they could not answer the question “not to publicize information that could benefit criminal organizations and individuals.”