National Newswatch

OTTAWA — The federal public safety minister is keeping the door open to the idea of Canada's spy agency crunching potentially sensitive data about innocent people.

Ralph Goodale tells MPs at a House of Commons committee today he is weighing views on whether the Canadian Security Intelligence Service should be allowed to retain and use such information.

Last month a Federal Court judge said CSIS violated the law by keeping electronic data about people who were not actually under investigation.

CSIS processed the metadata beginning in 2006 through its Operational Data Analysis Centre to produce intelligence that can disclose intimate details about individuals.

Metadata is information associated with a communication, such as a telephone number or email address, but not the message itself.

Privacy watchdogs from across the country said this week that Canada's spy agencies should destroy the data trails of innocent people they collect incidentally during terrorism investigations, once the actual targets have been cleared of suspicion.

The office of federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien says metadata must be handled with care because it can reveal medical conditions, religious beliefs and sexual orientation, among other personal traits. 

Goodale told MPs on the public safety committee the government would "consider all of the factors that are relevant in these circumstances" as it completes a review of national security policy.

NDP public safety critic Matthew Dube expressed concern.

"So you're not closing the door, then, to the possibility of this happening again?" Dube said. "Because to me it seems that if the Federal Court has deemed this illegal, then the answers should be clear."

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

The Canadian Press

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