The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., Friday, April 13, 2018. An internal review says the RCMP routinely flouted its own policies when gathering information from the internet, potentially endangering investigations and prosecutions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., Friday, April 13, 2018. An internal review says the RCMP routinely flouted its own policies when gathering information from the internet, potentially endangering investigations and prosecutions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

RCMP breached policy on collection of online information: audit

Commission said RCMP should keep data from social media sources no longer than strictly necessary

An internal review says the RCMP routinely flouted its own policies when gathering information from the internet, potentially endangering investigations and prosecutions.

The newly released audit report says many members across the RCMP use “open source information” in the course of investigations, intelligence gathering, research and engaging with the public.

The national police force’s efforts in the open-source realm range from passive online reading to creation of fake social media accounts.

A section of the Mountie operational manual provides a framework for the collection and use of open source material.

However, the audit found that many employees were unaware that an open-source policy existed or that it applied to their activities.

Overall, the reviewers concluded that internet-related open-source activities conducted across the RCMP “were not consistent nor compliant with” the operational policy.

In a response included in the report, RCMP management agreed with recommendations to improve compliance with policy, training and oversight concerning open-source information.

“We recognize that proper training, support, and in particular the organization’s approach to governance around this function is critical.”

In December, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki acknowledged the inadequacy of the force’s data-handling practices in her response to a watchdog report on Mountie surveillance of opponents of the now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP said the force should provide clear policy guidance on collection of personal information from open sources such as social media sites, the uses that can be made of it and what steps should be taken to ensure its reliability.

The commission also said the RCMP should treat such information from social media sources as a separate category of records — data that should be kept no longer than strictly necessary.

In the latest report, the auditors found that roles and responsibilities related to the police force’s open-source information policy were not well understood by employees.

“Without clearly established and communicated roles and responsibilities, there is a risk that OSI will be inappropriately obtained and used in support of criminal investigations and criminal intelligence gathering, which can expose the Force to liability and potentially impact prosecutions,” the report says.

The auditors found most of the RCMP’s open source research was done passively, involving no interaction with subjects of interest.

But they noticed some exceptions that were contrary to policy, “such as joining closed Facebook groups in a proactive monitoring effort to obtain information on upcoming events such as a protest or demonstration from online discussions, and using personal social media accounts to overtly try to contact a missing person.”

The RCMP devised a standard form for the creation, modification and removal of discreet online identities, such as fake social media accounts.

A key purpose of the form is to allow RCMP to determine if a subject of interest is actually another police officer. It is also intended to help flag cases where an online identity or account has been compromised and should no longer be used.

However, an audit sample of 110 employees determined that only six per cent had properly completed the form with the required approvals.

Employees from various RCMP divisions also told the auditors no consistent process was in place to remove a discreet online identity when an employee leaves a unit.

In addition, the RCMP policy did not include specific information on how to capture, store and retain open source information gathered by the police force.

ALSO READ: Watchdog’s report finds RCMP discriminated against Colten Boushie’s mother

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

RCMP

Just Posted

1914
It happened this week in 1914

May 9 - 15: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

The Salmon Arm RCMP seize hundreds of grams of drugs in a raid in Sorrento on March 20, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
RCMP have suspect identified in rash of local thefts

Police have a suspect in a rash of recent thefts from local… Continue reading

Rotary Way is being repaved from 4th Street South to the second bridge, just past St. Mary’s School. (Barry Coulter photo)
Rotary Way being repaved along Joseph Creek

The Rotary Club is having a portion of its namesake trail repaved.… Continue reading

The Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana. The dam created the Koocanusa Reservoir, which straddles the B.C./Montana border. (photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Outflow at Libby Dam to be increased

Volume increase to aid migration and spawning conditions for endangered white sturgeon in the Kootenai River

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read