Canada's electronic spy agency stops sharing metadata with partners

January 28, 2016

Canada's electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment, has stopped sharing metadata with its international partners after discovering that identifying information wasn't being sufficiently protected before the data was shared.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the sharing won't resume until he is satisfied that the proper protections are in place.

The issue is disclosed in the annual report of CSE commissioner Jean Pierre Plouffe, which was tabled in the House of Commons Thursday morning.

"While I was conducting this current comprehensive review, CSE discovered on its own that certain metadata was not being minimized properly," Plouffe explained in the report.

"Minimization is the process by which Canadian identity information contained in metadata is rendered unidentifiable prior to being shared …."

"The fact that CSE did not properly minimize Canadian identity information contained in certain metadata prior to being shared was contrary to the ministerial directive, and to CSE's operational policy."

In a statement, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the "metadata in question … did not contain names or enough information on its own to identify individuals" and that "taken together with CSE's suite of privacy protection measures, the privacy impact was low."

He added: "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."

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