IMSI Catcher Report Calls for Transparency, Proportionality, and Minimization Policies:
The Citizen Lab and CIPPIC are releasing a report, Gone Opaque? An Analysis of Hypothetical IMSI Catcher Overuse in Canada, which examines the use of devices that are commonly referred to as ‘cell site simulators’, ‘IMSI Catchers’, ‘Digital Analyzers’, or ‘Mobile Device Identifiers’, and under brand names such as ‘Stingray’, DRTBOX, and ‘Hailstorm’. IMSI Catchers are a class of of surveillance devices used by Canadian state agencies. They enable state agencies to intercept communications from mobile devices and are principally used to identify otherwise anonymous individuals associated with a mobile device and track them.
Though these devices are not new, the ubiquity of contemporary mobile devices, coupled with the decreasing costs of IMSI Catchers themselves, has led to an increase in the frequency and scope of these devices’ use. Their intrusive nature, as combined with surreptitious and uncontrolled uses, pose an insidious threat to privacy.
This report investigates the surveillance capabilities of IMSI Catchers, efforts by states to prevent information relating to IMSI Catchers from entering the public record, and the legal and policy frameworks that govern the use of these devices. The report principally focuses on Canadian agencies but, to do so, draws comparative examples from other jurisdictions. The report concludes with a series of recommended transparency and control mechanisms that are designed to properly contain the use of the devices and temper their more intrusive features.
I’m not going to lie: after working on this with my colleague, Tamir Israel, for 12 months it was absolutely amazing to publicly release this report. What started as a 1,500 word blog post meant to put defense lawyers on notice of some new legislation transmogrified into a 130 page report that is the most comprehensive legal analysis of these devices that’s been done to date. It’s going to be interesting to see what the effects of it are for cases currently being litigated in Canada and around the world!