NEWS

Alleged spyware removed from Saanich mayor Richard Atwell's computer

02/03/2015 01:16 EST | Updated 04/04/2015 05:59 EDT
After months of controversy, the District of Saanich has backed down and removed the Spectre 360 computer software from all municipal computers.

The software, which can record every keystroke and take screen shots every five seconds, was installed the day after Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell took office.

Atwell, who claimed it was installed without staff's knowledge, and the software was being used to spy on him, stopped using his computer and official email account as a result.

The mayor's allegations came to light after he accused Saanich police of harassment for repeatedly pulling him over and administering breathalyzer tests in which he said he always blew zero.

Prior to these allegations, Saanich police in December responded to a disturbance involving the mayor at the home of one of his campaign workers.

Atwell was accused of having an extramarital affair with the campaign worker, denied it, then admitted he'd lied.

After the mayor's allegations of spying and police harassment , Saanich city councillors defended the software and in a joint statement in January said it was installed for security purposes after an external audit of the district's computer systems last May.

Police find no evidence of wrong-doing

Police investigated and publicly stated they found no evidence of wrong-doing.

However, B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham decided two weeks ago to launch her own investigation into whether the software was complying with the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.

She announced she would examine what data was being captured and what, if any, personal information was being collected.

Denham said her findings would be made public by the end of March.

On Monday, Saanich's chief administrator, Andy Laidlaw told reporters the issue had become a distraction for council and he hoped removing the software, would bring some closure.

Even though reporters were only told of the software's removal on Monday, Laidlaw said it had actually been removed January 20th , the same day Denham announced she was launching her investigation.

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