We don’t know if the Vancouver Police Department is using controversial cell phone surveillance technology.
And one legal advocacy group says that’s a problem.
Lawyer Doug King with Pivot Legal Society says some U.S. police departments have been using Stingray, a device that acts as a cell phone tower, forcing nearby cell phones to connect to it, and then capturing that information.
“We’re just curious if this is something that has come to Canada, and specifically, whether the Vancouver Police Department is using it.”
So, Pivot filed a Freedom of Information request.
“If there are records that exist, we’re not willing to show them to you. If anything, the response is to ask more questions than to give more answers.”
King says people deserve to know if their information could be processed during an investigation of someone else . And if Stingray is being used, how is that information kept safe?
LISTEN to the interview with Pivot Legal Society lawyer Doug King:
Vancouver Police Department refuses to give straight answer
The VPD’s Brain Montague issued the following statement to CKNW, which essentially neither confirms nor denies their use of Stingray.
“FIPPA (BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) permits police agencies to refuse to neither confirm nor deny the existence of records in certain cases. As a general practice by the VPD, and police agencies across the country, we never discuss or provide information regarding investigative techniques or police tactics. The response provided to PIVOT is in accordance with FIPPA as there is, for a variety of reasons, information police agencies are not required to share simply because someone asks for it. It is at times in the public’s interest not to disclose certain information.
The reason to neither confirm or deny is to prevent the process of elimination when asked about sensitive information involving investigative tactics. For someone to make the assumption to say that a police agency has or uses a device, just because they are not confirming they do not, is an irresponsible practice.
I will add that any electronic monitoring in Canada, regardless of what devise(s) are used or how that monitoring is carried out, requires judicial authorization and would be disclosed in court. Those court records are a matter of public record.” – Brian Montague, VPD Media Spokesperson
Surveillance expert says VPD’s response is telling
But Queens University professor and Canada’s Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, David Murakami Wood, says the response suggests police probably do use the device.
“It’s a very interesting definition of the public interest to say it’s not in the public interest to know. I would argue completely the opposite that in fact, a police force is a public body, it serves the public, and therefore, it should be held publicly accountable.”