Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Canada's digital spy agency tracking your online downloads

The CBC (CSE tracks millions of downloads daily: Snowden documents - Canada - CBC News) and the Intercept (Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads) have jointly broken a huge story about mass internet surveillance led by Canada at a breathtaking scale.

In short, Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE) has been tracking traffic to and from over 100 file sharing sites. They can do this because they are tapping some of the principal arteries of the internet, over which your most sensitive and mundane information flows. When they see traffic to a questionable document, they try to find out as much about the person retrieving the document as possible. To do this, they dip into databases of information and profiles of millions (if not billions) of internet users created by them and their other Five Eyes partners. Correlating all this information, they may be able to link the download of a file to an individual. Though the presentation released by the CBC and the Intercept only refer to terrorism related documents, this is something CSE and its partners can do for any file shared on any one of these sites. The presentation actually refers to filtering out episodes of Glee. If you used one of these file sharing sites to download Glee, they would have been able to track you down as easily.

Of course, when asked to comment, CSE had its usual PFO:

"CSE is clearly mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians from a variety of threats to our national security, including terrorism," agency spokesman Andrew McLaughlin wrote in an email to CBC.

This is another example of completely suspicionless dragnetting of internet traffic that should cause all Canadians to be concerned. Gravely concerned. My information and your information is in the databases of internet users that the Five Eyes partners have created. During the the time in question, I had clients who used these services to share large documents with me that are subject to solicitor client privilege. This data was swept up in their system and their assurances that they didn't look at it offers me no comfort.

Mass, suspicionless surveillance is not OK and has to stop.

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