The RCMP wants to monitor more online activity to identify threats

La GRC veut surveiller davantage les activités en ligne pour repérer les menaces

28 April 2020 9h44


The RCMP wants to monitor more online activity to identify threats

Jim Bronskill

The Canadian Press


OTTAWA – The royal Canadian mounted police wishes to obtain a digital tool to collect data from a wide variety of online sources, including the darkest parts of the internet, which would allow him to gather information about threats such as epidemics and mass shootings.

The software would allow an agent of the RCMP to quickly collect data on a person’s activities online, ranging from the publication of an emoji on Facebook to the purchase of illicit firearms on the so-called “web hidden”.

“Social media and public information will be used to identify threats, respond to public concerns,” says the tender of the RCMP.

The application would also help to “identify issues of public relations and potential to improve information at the strategic, operational and tactical levels in order to improve the decision-making process in the event of a crisis or major event”.

The offer specifies that the tool should include a dashboard with reports on the latest news, events causing casualties, terrorist attacks, epidemics and natural disasters.

The call for tenders was published in mid-April, just a few days before a man armed with a primer a run deadly in Nova Scotia.

However, the initiative finds its origin in a tragedy, the shooting that killed three police officers and wounded two others in Moncton, New-Brunswick, six years ago.

A report on the events was recommended to the RCMP to obtain a tool for monitoring social media in real time to help identify risks and improve the communication to the public, noted the caporale Caroline Duval, a spokesperson for the RCMP.

“The police must keep pace with the emergence of new technologies to better serve the communities,” said Ms. Duval. “The analysis of social media can support public safety in various ways.”

The RCMP already uses such information to detect threats to major events, infrastructure, or other places, she added. They have also helped to identify the dangers for public figures, and to prevent suicides, shootings in schools and other criminal acts discussed on social networks, noted Ms. Duval.

This monitoring of online publications by police has also raised concerns about the respect of private life.

An activist from Toronto, was concerned by the abuse of the mining industry has recently learned that the police had compiled a profile of six pages about it, shortly after it was presented in a debate during the election campaign of 2015.

Rachel Small, an organizer with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, said that the profile of the RCMP, which was discovered years later by a request for access to information, is “rather scary and disturbing”.

The new software tool filtrerait the data sources and the internet content accessible to the public, including, but not limited to, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, discussion forums, message boards, social networks and websites for sharing videos and images.

The tender suggests that the tool should have a broad scope, be capable of generating data from platforms such as the online sales website Groupon and the platform of the game Farmville.

It would explore also the content found in segments less visible to the internet, the web hidden, can escape the search engines commonly used.

The RCMP’s efforts to gather useful information on the social media have triggered discussions with the federal commissioner for the protection of privacy, said the spokesman of the latter, Vito Pilieci.

The office of the commissioner underlined the need for the RCMP to be transparent with the public regarding its activities of monitoring of social media and the importance of an assessment of the impact on privacy, a formal analysis of the risks to personal information, ” added Mr. Pilieci.

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