#CyberFLASH: CSE Breach Triggered Mandatory Privacy Training, Email Reveals

1297516661469_ORIGINALOTTAWA — Canada’s electronic spy agency introduced mandatory privacy awareness training for all employees in March following an internal breach involving personal information.

When Greta Bossenmaier became chief of the Communications Security Establishment in February, the ultra-secret eavesdropping outfit was under intense public scrutiny over alleged spying on citizens.

But less than two months into the job, Bossenmaier was informing the spy agency’s staff of a privacy violation inside its own walls.

“I seriously regret that we are in this situation and never want it to be repeated,” Bossenmaier told employees in a March 20 email. “As such, we must use it as a learning opportunity so that we can prevent any further incidents from occurring.”

The Ottawa-based CSE, which employs about 2,000 people, uses highly advanced technology to intercept, sort and analyze foreign communications for information of intelligence interest to the federal government.

Documents leaked in 2013 by former American spy contractor Edward Snowden revealed the U.S. National Security Agency — a close CSE ally — had quietly obtained access to a huge volume of emails, chat logs and other information from major Internet companies, as well as massive amounts of data about telephone calls.

As a result, civil libertarians, privacy advocates and opposition politicians have demanded assurances the CSE is not using its extraordinary powers to snoop on Canadians. The agency insists it scrupulously follows the law in protecting Canadians’ privacy.

On July 31, 2014, someone notified CSE’s corporate security officials that a file containing personal information related to security clearances was mistakenly given public-access permission markings, making it accessible to CSE personnel, according to Bossenmaier’s email to staff.

An edited version of her classified message was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

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