What is FINTRAC
FINTRAC monitors monetary transactions to identify and prevent illegal activities such as money laundering and funding to terrorist organizations. FINTRAC stands for Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.
BREAKING DOWN FINTRAC
What FINTRAC Does
In order to protect the integrity and security of Canada's financial transactions, FINTRAC carefully monitors financial transaction reports for hints of suspicious behavior. In 2016, FINTRAC reviewed almost 24 million reports and intercepted over 1,600 illegal financial transactions. FINTRAC collects personal data from individuals and organizations as part of its operations and its tasks include:
- Protecting the information it holds
- Conducting research to discover patterns in money laundering and terrorist support
- Complying with all relevant regulations, such as the Privacy Act
- Providing information from its findings to the public
FINTRAC is part of the Egmont Group, a global network of like-minded financial analysis organizations, and collaborates with these other organizations to monitor money laundering and terrorist funding on an international level. Other prominent Egmont Group members include the United States' Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA).
How FINTRAC Operates
FINTRAC operates completely separate from law enforcement agencies but is authorized to share the information it discovers with them. For example, if a financial criminal needs to be detained, law enforcement agencies would need to be aware in order to intervene. FINTRAC reports to Canada's Minister of Finance and was established as part of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA).
As part of a government organization, FINTRAC must report its findings according to the Access to Information Act, which requires government information to be available to the public.
FINTRAC Privacy Requirements and Concerns
Since FINTRAC collects individuals' personal data, it is required to adhere to regulations under the Privacy Act, which specifies that personal information can only be used in relation to the purpose for which it was collected. Additionally, individuals have the right to access their own information and make any necessary corrections. FINTRAC must protect this personal information from unauthorized disclosure.
Audits in 2013 and 2009 by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) revealed that FINTRAC collected information not relevant to its initiatives. Following the 2009 audit, FINTRAC pledged to reduce the information it held to an absolute minimum, but the 2013 audit revealed that this reduction did not occur. The OPC and other critics spoke out against this unnecessary hoarding of information, pressuring FINTRAC to adopt quicker solutions to reducing the data they keep.