Google has responded to an exclusive Global News story about a potential security breach at Canada’s spy headquarters.
A Google Street View car mapped out the parking lot at the Ottawa compound with a sign that says “photos and videos prohibited.”
Even though license plates are blurred, by using reverse Google image, it could be possible to track where those agents live by the cars they drive. It’s a situation that had CSIS concerned when Global News brought it up – and even though the images were posted online last year, the spy agency wasn’t aware of the potential breach.
Thursday, Google’s head of Public Policy and Government Relations Colin McKay testified at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information,
Privacy and Ethics about the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica personal data breach.
“We haven’t seen the images that were provided to the reporter,” said McKay after the committee meeting. “What I can tell you is that we take very seriously technology we use to both collect street view images as well as blur things like license plates and faces. So we’re looking for that information before we can react to what was reported.”
So, to be clear, Google’s first response was to say they didn’t have the images that were found on Google.
Global News pointed out to McKay the images were removed Wednesday– surely that would suggest there was an issue?
“It was raised with us and we took them down as a precaution,” McKay said. “We’re still examining what the details of the allegations around the images are.”
McKay is the brother of Andrew McKay, a Global News employee in the area of online audience research and analytics.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale had strong words about the street view incident – calling it “way offside.”
“It should not have happened. It was out of bounds and outside the rules,” Goodale said. “We’re making that point very vigorously to Google so that they appreciate that they have engaged in behaviour here that is not proper.”
Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus raised the question of security at the CSIS compound. “People who work at CSIS must have some secure parking … with a guard or something,” he said. The CSIS gate was open, allowing the Google car inside the area where no photography is allowed.
“We have to take security more seriously in Canada.”
Goodale said his government is investigating what happened.
“Number one, to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and number two, to safeguard the security of CSIS personnel.”
“When there are instances where the government raises with us a security concern, we speak with the government,” said Google’s McKay.
“And then we take action to assuage their concern.”
But just how frequently are Google and the government communicating?
CSIS learned about the potential breach from Global News. Then, in an effort to have the street view photos removed, Canada’s spy agency asked a Global reporter for Google’s contact information.