RCMP Created Metadata-Crunching Tool to Glean Criminal Intelligence

By Bronskill, Jim | The Canadian Press, May 9, 2017 | Go to article overview

RCMP Created Metadata-Crunching Tool to Glean Criminal Intelligence


Bronskill, Jim, The Canadian Press


RCMP created metadata-crunching tool

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OTTAWA - The RCMP created, then suddenly abandoned, a tool to crunch electronic message trails gathered during criminal investigations -- a previously unknown foray into the controversial realm of big-data analysis.

The Mounties' national intelligence co-ordination centre was operating the Telecommunications Analytical Platform, as the tool was known, as recently as mid-November, say internal RCMP notes obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act.

"The TAP is a platform that regroups copies of certain telecommunications metadata, which are lawfully collected by the RCMP and other Canadian police services in the course of criminal investigations," the notes say.

Metadata is information associated with communications, but does not include the content of actual emails or phone calls. Still, privacy advocates say it can reveal much about a person and should be subject to strict handling procedures.

The RCMP tool analyzes metadata from concluded investigations only, such as phone numbers, associated crime types, source links to police records management systems and the geographical region where the metadata was recorded, the notes add.

The tool was a "proof of concept" that turned out to be unsuccessful and "therefore the project was ended," said Cpl. Annie Delisle, an RCMP spokeswoman. "No data was retained."

The Mounties would not say why the tool was ineffective, nor exactly how long it existed.

News of the RCMP information-sifting tool's apparently brief existence follows a furor over the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's data analysis centre.

In early November, Federal Court Justice Simon Noel said CSIS violated the law by keeping electronic data about people who were not actually under investigation. His sharply worded ruling said the spy service should not have retained the information because it was not directly related to threats to the security of Canada. …

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