Electronic spy agency stops sharing information with partners over privacy concerns

Canada’s electronic spy agency breached privacy rules by sharing certain types of information with its Five Eyes partners, a federal watchdog says.

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In his annual report released Thursday, Jean-Pierre Plouffe said the Communications Security Establishment passed on “certain types of metadata containing Canadian identity information” to counterparts in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The report says that information contained in the metadata was “not being minimized properly” before it was shared.

As a result, “CSE proactively suspended the sharing of this metadata with its partners.”

The data sharing practice will remain on hiatus “until systems are in place to properly minimize all Canadian identity information,” the office of the CSE Commissioner said in a news release.

In a statement, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the metadata in question “did not contain names or enough information on its own to identify individuals.”

“Taken together with CSE’s suite of privacy protection measures, the privacy impact was low,” he said.

"I am reassured that the Commissioner’s findings confirm the metadata errors that CSE identified were unintentional, and am satisfied with CSE’s proactive measures, including suspending the sharing of this information with its partners and informing the Minister of Defence.”

He said the CSE will not resume sharing information with the Five Eyes network “until I am fully satisfied the effective systems and measures are in place.”



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