OPC Calls For Greater Oversight Of Canadian Intelligence Community

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On January 28, 2014, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) tabled a special report to Parliament on privacy oversight for Canada’s intelligence-gathering agencies. Titled “Canadian Checks and Controls: Reinforcing Privacy Protection and Oversight for the Canadian Intelligence Community in an Era of Cyber-Surveillance,” the special report contains a mature and measured analysis of the governance issues in balancing privacy and intelligence gathering for national security.

The OPC makes recommendations in three areas. These recommendations include:

1. Greater Transparency. Augment existing review and reporting mechanisms through:

  • Reporting statistics annually on instances in which the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) assists other Canadian federal agencies when it receives requests for interception, as well as tabling annual reports by CSEC to Parliament.
  • Extending existing reporting requirements on use of surveillance in Public Safety Canada’s annual reports, separating domestic and foreign mandates, and those activities that are authorized by warrant and those that are warrantless.
  • Updating public disclosure providing an overview of Canada’s intelligence community and engage in a dialogue regarding mandates and how Canada’s intelligence community cooperates with global partners.
  • Reporting on consideration, rejection or implementation of recommendations from previous commissions of inquiry and policy reviews of Canada’s Intelligence Community.

2. Privacy Law Modernization. Modernize Canada’s privacy protections by:

  • Reforming existing privacy legislation to require privacy impact assessments prior to implementing new programs.
  • Strengthening provisions relating to exchange of information with foreign authorities to ensure that there is an investigative foundation for information and to ensure clear rules for cooperation.
  • Expanding grounds for recourse to the Federal Court.
  • Permitting the OPC to cooperate with other oversight bodies governing Canadian intelligence agencies.
  • Regulating use of and access to online sources and social networking sites by government agencies.

3. Accountability. Strengthen accountability by:

  • Bolstering the powers of oversight bodies, particularly with respect to joint reviews.
  • Clarifying legislative authority for certain intelligence gathering activities.
  • Increasing the role of Parliament in oversight.

The full report can be found here.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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