Digital and Data-Driven: Advancing Operations for a Digital Era

Digital and Data-Driven CSIS

Canada’s adversaries exploit the current data-rich environment to target Canadian interests, intellectual property, institutions and communities. Technological developments create an increasingly complex operational landscape, in which traditional investigative techniques often have limited success. Powerful and secure communication tools are widely accessible. This evolution of the digital landscape means that most threat-related activities are now planned, discussed, orchestrated and, in some cases, realized online, in the virtual world. These threat activities spill over with real-world impacts.

As a modern, forward-leaning organization, CSIS is investing in people, training, technology, infrastructure and governance. Harnessing the power of digital platforms, data, and data-driven decision-making are all essential for future operational, corporate, and analytical success. This priority stems from internal reviews related to CSIS’s data posture, grounded in the recommendations of the Report to the Clerk of the Privy Council on "A Data Strategy Roadmap for the Federal Public Service", and aligned with the themes of the Government of Canada’s Digital Ambition 2022. This work also demonstrates CSIS’s commitment to respond to recommendations from the Security Intelligence Review Committee made in January 2018, further to the Federal Court decision of October 2016, which call for strengthened data governance and analytical capability at CSIS.

Adopting a strategic approach to data is necessary for CSIS to fuel intelligence, to fulfill its mandate and to stay ahead of adversaries and support Canada’s strategic objectives. Our approach is six-fold:

In order to fully operate in this environment, CSIS must leverage technology to counter the systemic hostile activities by foreign state actors, emerging threats and unanticipated crises. Federal Court decisions interpreting CSIS’s foreign intelligence assistance mandate have highlighted a technological gap. Practical experience interpreting new dataset authorities reveals significant limitations in CSIS’s ability to operate in a data-rich landscape. CSIS requires modern and nimble authorities to perform its duties and functions in a way that accommodates technological evolution and the speed with which threats develop, while also maintaining Charter-protected rights in accordance with the rule of law. 

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