Wrongful use of spyware was a ‘corporate decision,’ says Saanich CAO

Consultant finds 'no evidence of malfeasance' after Saanich CAO Andy Laidlaw delivers in-house report

An in-house report released Wednesday on the use of spyware at the District of Saanich admits senior staff failed to consider privacy concerns, but stops short of blaming any individual staff member for its improper use.

The report, completed by interim CAO Andy Laidlaw, used findings from Brian Simmons, a contracted labour relations consultant, to answer questions put forward by Saanich council about the use of Spector 360, an employee monitoring tool.

The software was covertly installed on the computer of Mayor Richard Atwell and on 12 other workstations at the District on Dec. 2, 2014 and was disabled on Jan. 21 after B.C.’s privacy commissioner launched an investigation into its use.

Simmons concluded that there was no evidence to “support a claim that Atwell’s computer was targeted” by the employee monitoring software, and said he found “no evidence that would single out any particular individual in this matter, rather it was a corporate decision.

“Finding no evidence of malfeasance, I find no cause to terminate or discipline any employee,” Simmons wrote in his June 20 report.

Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released a scathing report into the District’s improper use of Spector 360 on March 30, in which she said senior staff failed to consider privacy standards before approving its use. Denham also found senior staff failed to notify Atwell about the software’s installation on his computer, and noted “the District’s submissions to my office demonstrate a deep lack of understanding about the most basic tenets of the (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) Act, such as what constitutes the collection of personal information.”

Denham also concluded that Director of Corporate Services, Laura Ciarniello, gave the express approval to install the spyware.

In a statement, Laidlaw said his report is intended to bring closure to the spyware scandal for both council and staff.

“Decisions were made by the senior management in the best interests of protecting Saanich’s information and technology system,” Laidlaw said.

“The implementation lacked a review through the lens of (the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) because the software was being viewed purely as an additional security installation.”

Laidlaw agreed that Denham was right when she called out the municipality for failing to complete a “privacy impact assessment,” which should have led senior staff to reconsider Spector 360’s invasive functions like keystroke logging and screenshot recordings.

“In my opinion, there was a systemic disconnect within the organization on the issue of personal privacy,” Laidlaw said.

“I recognize that Council has a need for accountability, however, it would be simplistic and inaccurate to point to some decision or event.”

The internal report also reveals five IT staff resigned and one retired between December 2014 and May 2015.

More to come.

editor@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Former Saanich councillor Dean Murdock hosts a live episode of his podcast on April 14 and tackleto tackle housing issues in the region. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Live episode of Saanich podcast focuses on region’s housing issues

Dean Murdock, panel of guests go live on Zoom for Amazing Places podcast April 14

Additional COVID-19 exposures have been reported at Arbutus Global Middle School and Mount Doug Secondary School. (Google Streetview)
Additional COVID-19 exposures reported at two Saanich schools

New dates of exposure added to Arbutus Global Middle School and Mount Doug Secondary School

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a recipient at a vaccination clinic. Peoples Pharmacy in Colwood is offering AstraZeneca vaccines for Greater Victoria residents from April 12 to 18. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
AstraZeneca vaccinations continue at Colwood pharmacy

Vaccines offered to people aged 55 to 65 from April 12 to 18

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. and Victoria’s overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Jacques Sirois of the Community Association of Oak Bay works to remove decades worth of English ivy from a stand of native Scouler’s Willows in the Kitty Islet end of McNeill Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Jacques Sirois of the Community Association of Oak Bay works to remove decades worth of English ivy from a stand of native Scouler’s Willows in the Kitty islet end of McNeill Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay declares a decade of ecological restoration

The UN initiative aligns with what district is already doing, mayor says

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. urges people to stay in their neighbourhoods, discourages out-of-household meet-ups

Dr. Bonnie Henry says there should be no travel, even to the next city over

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Most Canadians plan to get COVID-19 vaccine, but safety fears drive hesitancy: poll

This comes as confidence in governments is plummeting in provinces being hit hardest by the pandemic

Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox is shown in a 1981. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP)
Terry Fox’s legacy of resilience resonates during COVID-19 crisis, says brother

Fred Fox said his brother’s legacy of resilience has taken on renewed resonance as COVID-19 rages on

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Most Read