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BCCLA condemns illegal use of web monitoring tool by Nova Scotia RCMP

The BCCLA and the East Coast Prison Justice Society have jointly written to both the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners and the Nova Scotia Minister of Justice with grave concerns regarding recent reports about the Nova Scotia RCMP H Division’s purchase and use of the Web Identity Search Tool (“WIST”) from Toronto-based company LTAS Technologies. Using WIST, the police could unlock, view, and search through private Facebook friend lists.

Given the overall effects that these kinds of policing and surveillance practices have upon human rights that involve the privacy, expression, association and equality of all people, we are alarmed that the RCMP sought to circumvent the ​Charter​ by purchasing data from a commercial entity. There is a massive public concerns about the use of such emerging digital technology, given its invasive nature and potential lack of accuracy and. Earlier this year, Federal and Provincial Privacy Commissioners initiated a joint investigation into the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies after media revelations.

These unchecked practices by police leave people across Canada with diminished rights and nurtures distrust amongst the public, as we never know when and to what extent the state is monitoring our private activities.

The BCCLA and ECPJS ask the Nova Scotia Minister of Justice to issue immediately suspend the use of any internet surveillance tool such as WIST by police in Nova Scotia. We also ask the Minister to initiate an independent review of any past or ongoing usage of WIST and any other web monitoring tools used by the police in the province, and to set provincial policing standards once the review is over.

These standards must reflect the state of the law and either outright ban or tightly circumscribe the use of internet monitoring tools by police.

Read our full letter to the Minister of Justice here and Halifax Board of Police Commissioners here.