Big bill revealed for Saanich spying software

FOI results on purchase and installation of Saanich spying software, Spector 360, reveals at least $29,000 bill

The installation and use of employee monitoring software at Saanich municipal hall could cost the municipality at least $30,000 in 2015, thanks to licensing and maintenance agreements that were confirmed before B.C.’s privacy commissioner launched an investigation into the District’s practices earlier this year.

Emails released Monday through a freedom of information request show Saanich’s Information Technology department underwent training on Nov. 24, 2014 and installed Spector 360 – which is capable of capturing keystrokes as well as continuous screen images of employee activity – on an unknown number of computers at a cost of $1,992.

Two invoices dated Jan. 14, 2015 reveal Saanich was given the option of paying another $29,250 for further licencing and one year of maintenance, or $43,992 for licencing and three years of maintenance by SpectorSoft Corporation, which sells Spector 360. The software had been monitoring activity on several municipal computers until Jan. 20, when the B.C. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham launched an investigation into its use.

The FOI response also reveals Laura Ciarniello, Saanich’s director of corporate services, sent an email on Dec. 2 to IT manager Forrest Kvemshagen approving the software installation. Mayor Richard Atwell and council were sworn in on Dec. 1.

“I approve of this program and the machines that it has been installed on,” Ciarniello wrote in the email to Kvemshagen. “I have spoken with the Directors and Paul about this and I left it with (former CAO) Paul (Murray) to discuss with [redacted] and [redacted] or not.”

Murray was on vacation leave on Dec. 2 and left the municipality on Dec. 16 with a $468,000 payout. Ciarniello was on vacation Monday and was unavailable for comment.

Mayor Richard Atwell went public about his concerns over the “spyware” on Jan. 12 and said Spector 360 had been installed on his computer and several other computers without his knowledge or consent.

Atwell told the News on Monday that he will wait for the privacy commissioner’s report before commenting on the FOI revelations.

“I will be more than happy to comment when the OIPC releases its findings,” Atwell said.

Interim CAO Andy Laidlaw said the District provided all necessary information to Denham on its use of Spector 360 and will wait to respond to the recommendations in her report.