Canada's privacy commissioner alarmed by Prism revelations

OTTAWA, June 10 Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:47pm EDT

OTTAWA, June 10 (Reuters) - Reports the United States is secretly collecting vast amounts of personal data have alarmed Canada's privacy commissioner and she will press to see if Canadians have been affected, a spokesman for the commissioner said on Monday.

The office of Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart will also contact data protection authorities around the world to discuss whether to mount a joint fact-finding effort into the recent revelations, the spokesman added.

An ex-CIA employee working as a contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency says NSA is running a massive surveillance program called Prism that scoops up information from phone companies as well as Internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook.

"Our office has been following developments as reported on this matter and the scope of information reportedly being collected raises significant concerns," said Scott Hutchinson, a spokesman for Stoddart.

Hutchinson said Stoddart's office would "express our concerns to, and seek information from," Canada's top secret Communication Security Establishment (CSE), a branch of the defense ministry that specializes in gathering signals intelligence abroad.

Canada's government has yet to comment on the Prism reports. Canada, the United States, Britain, New Zealand and Australia belong to the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network.

Separately, the Globe and Mail newspaper said CSE - which is not allowed to monitor domestic telecommunications - runs its own global electronic eavesdropping program designed to detect patterns of suspicious activity.

Like Prism, the CSE program collects data about calls rather than the content of the calls, the Globe said, citing documents obtained under access to information legislation. A spokesman for CSE was not immediately able to comment on the report. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway)