Ottawa must reveal what spyware the RCMP uses, says expert

Ottawa must disclose what spyware the RCMP uses, expert says< /p> UPDATE DAY

The federal government should reveal what software the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian intelligence services use for their surveillance efforts, according to an expert called to testify in parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

During his appearance before the same committee the day before, the Minister of Public Security, Marco Mendicino, had declared that these federal institutions did not use the controversial Pegasus spyware, but that a similar “technique” was used.

This special investigative “technique” would have monitored the actions of 49 devices in 32 investigations since 2017, according to a memo submitted in June by the RCMP to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy privacy and ethics.

According to Ronald J. Deibert, professor of political science and director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, “there is absolutely no reason why [ the software] should not be disclosed, and [there are] various good reasons why it should be”.

Mr. Deibert also deplored the government's lack of transparency in this area, even if the Minister assured that all uses of the software were made possible thanks to the obtaining of a warrant from the Superior Court.

“We are fooling ourselves if we do not believe that this is a real threat”, added the expert, who has repeatedly expressed to parliamentarians his fear of the proliferation and normalization of these surveillance technologies not only with the government, but also within the private sector.

Michel Juneau-Katsuya, an expert in national security and intelligence issues, who has previously worked in the government, also expressed concern about the far-reaching reach of these technologies.

He also aroused surprise and the interest of MPs when he mentioned the fact that it was commonplace for elected officials to work for foreign countries after a career as an elected official or within the public service.

“What what we know for sure is that we have various foreign countries that have succeeded in recruiting elected officials, whether municipal, provincial or federal,” he said.

Reiterating comments made the day before by his replacement, the former privacy commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, said on Tuesday that he was not aware that Canada had ever used software spy.

He said concern for privacy was not the RCMP's “first instinct” and called for every new technology with a surveillance component goes through a privacy impact assessment before its large-scale use.