Canada's spy agency is moving quietly ahead with plans to collect and use databases containing personal information about its citizens.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service says the initiative - made possible by sweeping security legislation passed last year - will enable the agency to crunch large volumes of information and detect previously unseen patterns. However, the new power to gather, sift and keep Canadian datasets worries civil liberties advocates.
The government should give Canadians a better sense of the kind of information CSIS is now allowed to exploit, given the existing dangers of falsely identifying people as security threats, said Tim McSorley, national co-ordinator of the Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.
"It would help to ensure that Canadians' rights are being protected," McSorley said. He also questioned whether "we want to be moving in this direction of intelligence agencies collecting and retaining vast amounts of information?"
Memos disclosed to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show CSIS set the process in motion last July with a request to Ralph Goodale, public safety minister at the time. The spy service asked Goodale to approve proposed classes of Canadian datasets, a step intended to ensure accountability for the data program.