RCMP acknowledges using controversial spy tech to track cellphone data

OTTAWA - The RCMP has admitted it possesses a controversial high-tech spy device that allowed it to track cellphone data in 19 criminal investigations last year.

RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam tells the CBC, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail that the force owns 10 of the so-called mobile device identifier tools, which can gather "high-level data" about a phone's location.

It's believed to be the first official public acknowledgment by the RCMP that the force uses surreptitious devices to collect such information, known as metadata.

Adams says the RCMP's devices do not capture private communications, in keeping with department policy. He would not identify the model of the device in question.

He calls the technology a very important investigative tool, one the Mounties use to identify and locate suspects under investigation.

The briefing, a rarity for the RCMP, follows a CBC report that someone in downtown Ottawa has been using a device known as an "IMSI catcher," which can intercept and identify cellphone metadata.