The Privacy Committee will conduct a study on spyware used by the RCMP

A parliamentary committee will hold hearings on the use of spyware by the RCMP and the potential risks to the privacy rights of Canadians.

The House of Commons privacy committee voted on Tuesday to determine what “device investigation tools” the constables are using and to request a list of court warrants obtained for the deployment of such software.

The committee also requested a list of warrants or any information on the wiretapping of MPs, parliamentary assistants and any other personnel.

The committee was called to meet after the RCMP submitted a document to the House of Commons outlining its use of tools that secretly and remotely obtain data from devices like phones and computers. This document was provided in response to Conservative MP Tako Van Popta’s question about government programs that collect data from Canadians.

The RCMP’s Covert Access and Interception Team, established in 2016, uses tools to collect data such as text messages, emails and calendar entries, according to the RCMP document.

These tools may also collect “audio recordings of private communications and other sounds within range of the targeted device” and “photographic images of people, places, and activities visible to the device’s built-in camera(s). target”.

The National Police Service said these tools are needed to collect private communications that cannot be collected using traditional “wiretapping” or other techniques, adding that the widespread use of encryption on devices makes it “exponentially more difficult” to conduct court-sanctioned surveillance.

The motion calls witnesses including Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, current and former privacy commissioners, and RCMP officers who have overseen the use of spyware.

René Villemure, a Bloc Québécois MP who introduced the motion, said that the operational use of such software by the RCMP is of concern and that it is necessary to speak with those directly responsible to ensure accountability and protection of private life.

The motion says the hearings, which must begin no later than August 8, will span two days and up to four committee meetings.

The committee is due to report its findings and recommendations by September 19.

By Erika Ibrahim


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