Have you ever heard of Stingray? It’s a controversial piece of surveillance technology that lets whoever’s using it tap into information from any and all nearby cell phones.
Police in the U.S. have been using them for some time, but now questions are being raised about whether the Vancouver Police Department has one too.
The VPD won’t confirm or deny if they are using Stingray.
But if they do – what does it mean for your privacy?
Earlier tonight, Drex spoke with David Christopher with digital watchdog group Open Media about the technology, and what it means for Vancouverites.
Why the secrecy?
Christopher says it’s troubling that police won’t come clean about whether or not they have one of the devices.
“I think it’s really ridiculous for a police force in a democratic society not to be up front about whether or not they’re using this kind of invasive spy technology.”
He says that lack of transparency creates all kinds of problems for people’s privacy rights. First and foremost, how can anyone complain that their rights have been violated in the first place?
“Unfortunately to get legal recourse, you’d need to have proof that you were being spied on in the first place. Right now the police are refusing to confirm or deny whether they’re using this. That’s not good enough. There needs to be an investigation, and we’re calling on the BC Privacy commissioner to look into this further.”
Christopher says another problem is that the machines are indiscriminate – they suck up data from whoever is nearby, not just suspected criminals.
“There’s no need to be doing anything wrong, or to be the target of any investigation – if you’re near one of these devices, your private information is being collected and stored.”
In fact, he says he doesn’t know if it’s even possible for Stingray to be set up to target just a single person whom police have a warrant for.
But Christopher says he’s hopeful public outrage over devices like this will eventually force officials to show their hand, and let people know what’s going on.
“Everyone cares about privacy when you really think about it. Nobody wants some kind of random police officer or government spy reading through your emails, poking through your photographs.”
Listen to Drex’s full interview with David Christopher of Open Media