Canada’s federal police continued to snoop on Canadians’ cellphones and computers for at least a month after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, new documents prove.
Financial records obtained by VICE through the Access to Information Act show the extent to which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) used federal legislation to obtain information on Canadians from all major phone companies without warrants. Instead, police paid small fees for each of these requests.
The Supreme Court ruled that practise illegal in its June 13, 2014, decision on R. v. Spencer, writing that police need judicial authorization before making those sorts of requests.
However, the records show Telus and Bell both continued to fork over Canadians’ information even after that decision was handed down. […]
VICE’s analysis of the records show that the RCMP paid over $1.6 million to Canada’s cellphone companies since 2010 in order to skirt the normal process of having these requests approved by a judge.
The documents only deal with the RCMP, which is primarily tasked with federal investigations like child pornography and terrorism, but also do basic criminal investigations in many towns and cities. The documents do not include data from provincial police forces, who likely made the bulk of these Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) requests. Nor do they include the spy agencies Canadian Security Intelligence Service or Communications Security Establishment Canada, or the Canada Revenue Agency, which have also been known to use the process.
Spokespeople for both the telecommunications companies and the government deny that any sensitive information was being handed over through this process. Law enforcement often refers to the information provided as “tombstone” or “phonebook” information—usually a name, address, and phone number. All law enforcement needs to show the company in order to access this information is an IP address.
However, previous VICE investigations revealed that, thanks to the informal process and lack of oversight, police often used these powers to ask for, and obtain, users’ passwords, GPS location, and other other personal information. […]
Telus says that in 2013 it received more than 100,000 requests from law enforcement for subscriber information, and the vast majority appear to have been warrantless requests. Rogers received nearly 175,000 requests, but only half were made without a warrant. […]