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CSIS broke law by keeping sensitive metadata, Federal Court rules

A Federal Court judge says Canada’s spy agency illegally kept potentially revealing electronic data about people over a 10-year period.

In a hard-hitting ruling made public Thursday, Justice Simon Noel says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) breached its duty to inform the court of its data-collection program, since the information was gathered using judicial warrants.

CSIS Director Michel Coulombe is responding to the ruling at a press conference in Ottawa. CBCnews.ca is carrying his remarks live.

“All associated data collected under warrant was collected in accordance with the law. The judgment deals more with the storage of data, with third parties, after it has been collected,” Coulombe said at the news conference.

He said CSIS interpreted the CSIS Act to allow for the retention of that data, but the court disagreed with this interpretation.

Coulombe said the court made the right decision with respect to the storage of the data and “we completely accept the decision rendered by the court,”  he said. “The trust of Canadians is essential in the fulfillment of our mandate.”

He said CSIS has halted all access to, and analysis of, the data in order to assess the “operational” impact of the ruling and to determine the way forward.

“We are working closely with the Department of Justice to make sure that we meet our obligations with the court,” he added.

Data analysis

Justice Noel said in his ruling CSIS should not have retained the information since it was not directly related to threats to the security of Canada.

Computer passwords

A Federal Court judge says Canada’s spy agency illegally kept potentially revealing electronic data about people over a 10-year period. (Shutterstock)

Noel said CSIS crunched the data beginning in 2006 using a powerful program known as the Operational Data Analysis Centre to produce intelligence that can reveal specific, intimate details about people the spy service investigates.

The improperly retained material was metadata — information associated with a communication, such as a telephone number or email address, but not the message itself.

The ruling said the CSIS data analysis grew out of the spy service’s concerns in the early 2000s that the information it collected was not fully utilized and should be processed using modern techniques.

Article source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/csis-metadata-ruling-1.3835472?cmp=rss