06/07/2013 06:22 EDT | Updated 08/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Spy watchdog eyes information sharing with allies amid U.S. privacy concerns

OTTAWA - The watchdog over Canada's electronic surveillance agency says it is interested in the spy outfit's sharing of information with allies.

There are concerns that Canada's secretive Communications Security Establishment may have been given access to the communications data of American Internet giants through its U.S. counterpart, the National Security Agency.

Bill Galbraith, a spokesman for the commissioner that keeps an eye on the CSE, says he cannot comment directly on those reports.

However, he says the watchdog's interest in exchanges with allies is ongoing — part of the commissioner's effort to ensure the CSE complies with Canadian law.

The CSE, with headquarters in a plain-looking building in Ottawa's south end, monitors foreign computer, satellite, radio and telephone traffic.

CSE spokesman Ryan Foreman says the agency cannot comment on its methods, operations or capabilities, but adds the agency functions within all Canadian laws.

The agency has a staff of more than 2,000 — including skilled mathematicians and computer whizzes — and an annual budget of about $400 million.

It is a key element of the intelligence-sharing network known as the Five Eyes — Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.