In April 2016, the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) announced that it would investigate a public complaint into the RCMP's alleged use of an investigative technology known as Mobile Device Identifiers (MDI). The complaint was against the RCMP's refusal to confirm or deny that it used this technology. The complainant was also concerned that the devices were capable of intercepting the private communication of large groups of people.
The RCMP recently received a copy of the OPC's report and we have carefully reviewed its findings. I wish to thank the OPC for its thoroughness and professionalism throughout the investigation and I am pleased to note some of the key findings in the report:
- The Privacy Commissioner noted that the RCMP provided unprecedented access to its MDI technology and a highlevel of cooperation throughout the investigation.
- In general, the OPC found the RCMP's use of MDI technology to be consistent with Canada's Privacy Act.
- The OPC investigation was informed of 125 investigations in which the RCMP used MDI technology in the review period. For greater transparency, the RCMP reported on 126 instances of the use of the technology, as one investigation had both warranted and unwarranted use of the technology. In conclusion, the Report stated that in general, the complaint was not well-founded, with the exception of six instances out of 126, in which the RCMP did not obtain prior judicial authorization or have exigent circumstances.
- However, the OPC stated that the RCMP has already taken steps to remedy this situation, since it now requires prior judicial authorization for all MDI deployments unless presented with exigent circumstances (to prevent imminent harm or death).
- The investigation confirmed that the RCMP's MDI devices are not capable of intercepting private communications such as voice communications, email messages, text messages, contact lists, images, encryption keys or basic subscriber information.
- The OPC is satisfied that the RCMP lawfully segregates, secures and ultimately destroys any thirdparty (non-target) data at the conclusion of court proceedings, which is in keeping with court requirements.
In the interest of being transparent, the RCMP publicly disclosed its use of MDI technology in April 2017, prior to receiving a copy of the OPC's report.
The RCMP believes MDIs provide valuable assistance to criminal investigations and other policing duties. They can help further criminal investigations relating to national security, serious and organized crime, and other serious Criminal Code offences that impact the safety and security of Canadians.
The RCMP is committed to continue to find ways to strike a balance between public transparency on the use of the technology, and at the same time, protecting this important tool for public safety and law enforcement purposes.
Joe Oliver, A/Commr
Acting Deputy Commissioner, Specialized Policing Services