Who’s getting stung by Stingray surveillance devices

If the police did understand the ratchet-like progress of tyranny, they would think twice

Tyranny works like a ratchet.

That’s something I hope the good guys and gals at the Vancouver Police Department and Edmonton Police Services don’t understand, because, if they do, we’re in big trouble; if they don’t perhaps they can learn.

If the police did understand the ratchet-like progress of tyranny, they would think twice about embracing a surveillance system like Stingray.

They would think three times about concealing from organizations like the BC Civil Liberties Association the fact that they are employing what is really an insidious technology.

For those of you who are not familiar with Stingray and what it does, this ‘mass surveillance’ technology essentially mimics a cell phone tower, intercepting nearby mobile devices and capturing data that reveals the phone’s location, texts, emails and voice conversations.

Wow! How handy is that in the fight against terrorism, organized crime, espionage? It’s easy to see why police and security agencies would want to have one or two Stingrays around.

But what’s the cost – there’s always a cost in terms of personal and social freedom when police are given extra powers, the question becomes, where’s the balance?

Any device that can be deployed secretly, to pry open people’s privacy randomly, indiscriminately, and en masse is dangerous. Not only for what it can do in the moment, but for the precedent it sets.

Say we allow this kind of technology to be used without adequate restraint, then a government gets into office that is more interested in retaining power than protecting our rights and freedoms.

Access to an infrastructure that already includes widespread use of technologies like Stingray would make it easy for such a government to ratchet up its control and clamp down on any form of dissent, legitimate or not.

When we risk our rights and freedoms in the name of avoiding terrorist and criminal activity, we are playing right into the hands of the terrorists and criminals. Our police departments and security services need legislation and a regulatory framework that prevents the abuse of technologies like Stingray.

Craig Spence, Editor