2015-2016 Consider carefully whether releasing aggregated information will cause harm

Complaint: The Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) withheld specific information within four pages of graphs showing the technical and operational assistance it had provided to federal law enforcement and security agencies. CSEC claimed, in part, that releasing the information could result in injury to the defence of Canada and its allies (section 15).

Investigation: CSEC gave a detailed rationale for applying the exemption, and the factors it considered when exercising its discretion. This included clear examples of how releasing information about specific requests for technical and operational assistance could reasonably be expected to result in injury. However, CSEC was not able to justify how injury could result from disclosing the aggregate information and categories found in the graphs.

Outcome: CSEC released more information, such as sub-totals and totals.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • In deciding that releasing aggregated figures about requests for assistance would jeopardize ongoing investigations, CSEC applied section 15 too broadly.
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