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

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

Just Posted

BC Transit will offer free bus service in the South Okanagan and Similkameen on Earth Day, April 22. (Black Press file photo)
BC Transit to offer free Earth Day bus service in South Okanagan and Similkameen

Conventional routes, On-Request and handyDART services all included in day of free service

A suspected water leak has closed Government Street between Nelson Avenue and Penticton Avenue.
Water main leak closes portion of Government Street

City crews are trying to find the suspected water leak this morning

road closed
Mudslide closes Penticton road

Eastside Road is closed in both directions, take Highway 97 instead

Photo: pixabay.com
Morning Start: What does space smell like?

Your morning start for Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Pasta Factory on Martin Street was helped by the city to create patio space. (Facebook)
Penticton’s patio push is on, with Pasta Factory joining the party

City of Penticton is getting creative to help local restaurants

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Shuswap businesses dependent on  tourism are bracing for further details of travel restrictions expected to be announced by Friday, April 23. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
B.C. travel restrictions create uncertainty among North Okanagan-Shuswap businesses

Sicamous mayor to ramp up campaign against licence plate hate

The site of a proposed water bottling facility referred to in a groundwater licence application is in the vicinity of this intersection. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Concerns raised over water licence application in Salmon Arm for bottling water

Neighbours want to know more, city councillor concerned about commercial use of public aquifers

Sheldon Pierre Louis’s winning mural design, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.” (Facebook: Okanagan Nation Alliance)
Syilx artist selected as winner of Kelowna Gospel Mission’s mural project

Sheldon Pierre Louis was also awarded $10,000 for his winning submission, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.”

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

Most Read