Editorial: FOI reveals curious chatter over Saanich spying software

FOI results suggest at least some individuals were not notified of Spector 360 installation

A freedom of information response sent to Saanich News by the District of Saanich on Monday offered the first glimpse into the weeks leading up to explosive revelations about the installation of employee monitoring software at municipal hall.

The most curious discussion within the 140 pages of documents is an email exchange between corporate services director Laura Ciarniello and IT manager Forrest Kvemshagen. In that Dec. 2 exchange, Kvemshagen makes clear no one in the IT department had “taken any steps to inform these individuals of the monitoring activities and we leave that to you to follow up as required. Let me know if you would like us to take any action on this,” he writes to Ciarniello.

Mayor Richard Atwell maintains he was never informed of the installation of the monitoring software on his work computer. Spector 360’s software capabilities include keystroke logging and screen capturing, and B.C. privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham has previously stated her office has not reviewed a case where monitoring of employees to such an extent has been justified without cause.

The FOI results suggest at least some of the individuals who were slated for monitoring by the Spector 360 program (unfortunately, the FOI results redacted the list of names) were not notified of the software’s installation.

Kvemshagen’s last sentence also suggests his department may have been aware they were navigating through foggy waters: “In order to ensure there is appropriate authorization in place for this work, please reply to this email stating your approval,” he writes to Ciarniello. Former CAO Paul Murray should have been the authority to ultimately sign off on this installation; he was reportedly on vacation leave on Dec. 2.

The reply email from Ciarniello approves the program’s installation on a redacted number of computers. Ciarniello then mentions she has spoken to “Paul” about the approval, and says she’s left it up to Murray to notify redacted parties. Could those parties be Mayor and Council? We can’t be sure of that, but we do know the privacy commissioner’s report is undoubtedly going to cause fireworks when it publishes later this month. Curious chatter at municipal hall, indeed.