By Cole Parkinson
The summer has brought quite a bit of work for Bow River MP Martin Shields and he highlighted several different topics for Municipal District of Taber. One of the discussions he brought forward was around hearings happening at the Ethics Committee around spyware.
“I’ve filled in a bit this summer and Ethics Committee got real interesting dealing with the topic of spyware. We had information that would suggest that the RCMP had the capability of turning any phone on, listening to anything — this is not your Amazon when you buy something and all of a sudden you get ads for similar things. This was the ability to turn it on, listen, and watch. This is the modern version of wiretapping,” explained Shields at the M.D. regular meeting held on Aug. 16. “We’re really interested in the sense of are you doing this? And the opposition parties, because we chair the Ethics Committee, which means if all the opposition parties work together, there are six votes against five for the Liberals, so there was an agreement to have committee meetings about this. It was actually the Bloc who brought the motion forward and we were very interested as well.”
Stemming from the hearings, the committee heard several different people talk about the issue which brought forward some more questions. Overall, 11 people were talked to during the hearings from Aug. 8-9.
“In the first witnesses, we had the RCMP who talk about 10 then 32, and then up to 49 people, and then the question comes ‘are there warrants?’ Not that we want to see what’s in the warrants, but we’re going to see who are you listening to, and what is the rationale. Then we have the ethics commissioner come along who says ‘they need to have their policy approved to use this through the privacy commissioner and he hadn’t heard anything about this until he read it in the media.’ He was extremely concerned, so we had a number of witnesses come through in the two days, but I think the last one was the former head of this thesis,” continued Shields. “We’d heard and asked questions ‘is anybody else using this besides the RCMP?’ — which we didn’t get much for answers. Then, the thesis director said ‘oh yeah, we’ve been using this and other agencies are using this.’ Again, we get very nervous about whose phone they’re turning on and who they’re listening to.”
With the ability to listen in on conversations on smartphones, the conversation also brought up the fact it was happening to several different groups of people. While wiretapping may come from a police perspective listening into potentially hear about criminal activity, the committee heard this was being used in ways beyond that.
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