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

RCMP breached policy on collection of online information: audit

OTTAWA — 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.

An RCMP spokeswoman had no immediate comment Tuesday on the force’s progress.

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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2021.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

RCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Red Deer Rebels will have three new assistant coaches when the WHL regular season starts on Friday. Brad Flynn (left), will be on the bench alongside fellow assistant Ryan Colville (right) head coach Brent Sutter (middle). (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Cowboy Kicks, originally scheduled for May 5, will now take place Sept. 18. (Contributed photo)
Westerner Park’s Cowboy Kicks fundraiser moved to Sept. 18

A major fundraiser for Westerner Park and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell tries to tip a point shot past Lethbridge Hurricanes goalie Car Tetachuk in WHL action Friday night at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels struggles continue, drop seventh straight to Hurricanes

Hurricanes score three power-play goals in 6-3 win

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Ediburgh, left, look on as Manitoba Beaver peaks out of his box at a July 14, 1970 ceremony in which Hudson's Bay Company observed an old tradition. The death of Prince Philip has reminded a small French village in Manitoban about how a royal visit half a century ago made the community the centre of frog racing in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prince Philip’s frog-jumping legacy in a Manitoba French community

WINNIPEG — The death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has reminded… Continue reading

The Yukon provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for Canada's fourth election held during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon residents set to vote in fourth election held in Canada during pandemic

WHITEHORSE — Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole, former PM Harper speak on ‘build back right’ for pandemic recovery

OTTAWA — Top Tory leaders of the past and present will speak… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals set to debate universal basic income, pharmacare, OAS hike

OTTAWA — Grassroots Liberals have taken up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call… Continue reading

Students enter the Pierre Laporte Secondary School as secondary school students return to class full time during the COVID-19 pandemic in Montreal, Monday, March 29, 2021. Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a year of missed social connections that would typically help them mature and regulate their emotions, says a psychiatrist calling for more education on coping skills as part of the school curriculum. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Teach students coping skills to deal with anger, including during pandemic: doctor

Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

jobs - T - 3-6-2020
Finding a job: 3 job search truisms you need to accept

A job search has many moving parts; your mindset is the most… Continue reading

Most Read