Vancouver police refuse to say if they are tracking people via their mobile phones

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      The Vancouver Police Department is refusing to say whether or not it has deployed a tool that can track people’s locations via their mobile phones. The device, called StingRay, can also monitor communications and intercept the contents of voice calls and text messages.

      That has prompted Doug King, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, to demand the VPD reveal if it is using StingRay in Vancouver.

      “Citizens have a right to know whether or not our local police forces are engaging in mass surveillance, and disclosure of the existence and use of this device is vital in ensuring that individual Charter rights are protected,” he said quoted in a media release. “The use of this device on people or groups of people without judicial authority represents a massive breach of the public trust.”

      King raised his concerns after the VPD refused to release any documents about the surveillance device—or even confirming or denying if it possesses the technology—in response to a freedom of information request.

      In its response letter, the VPD claimed doing so would “harm the effectiveness of investigative techniques and procedures currently used, or likely to be used, in law enforcement”.

      Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, is quoted in Pivot’s release suggesting the VPD’s silence is proof it has deployed the StingRay device.

      “We simply have to assume that refusing to disclose whether these spying devices are being used means ‘Yes they are,’” Vonn said. “This information denial is effectively a denial of answers to the critically important questions that follow: how they are being used and with what degree of compliance with citizens’ Charter rights.”

      This morning (November 12), calls for the VPD to say whether or not it is using the technology began to build. But so far the police department has remained tight-lipped.

      "It is in the public’s interest, at times, not to disclose certain information,” VPD Const. Brian Montague told the Globe and Mail.

      King and Pivot have filed an appeal with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner that asks for a review of the VPD’s refusal to hand over any information it might have about StingRay. The appeal process can take months but could eventually end with the release of any documents that do exist. 

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