End metadata games

Federal Court Justice Simon Noël’s ruling that CSIS has been illegally storing metadata for more than a decade demonstrates the need for clear rules and strong oversight of Canadian intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

At issue is the agency’s indefinite retention of metadata known as “associated data.” In his redacted ruling, Justice Noël wrote, “Over the course of these proceedings, it became clear, through submissions and witnesses, that the definition of associated data for the Court consists of data collected through the operation of warrants from which the content was assessed as unrelated to threats and of no use to an investigation, prosecution, national defence, or international affairs.” While the content was not retained, CSIS apparently believed it could retain the metadata and did so.

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