Canada's surveillance agency has admitted that it "incidentally" spies on the communications of citizens.
The Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC) makes the admission in a new section on its website titled "Inside CSE". Under the heading "Foreign signals intelligence" the agency states that "In the course of targeting foreign entities outside Canada in an interconnected and highly networked world, it is possible that we may incidentally intercept Canadian communications or information."
The statement seems to confirm a Globe and Mail report from last year that in 2011 then-defence minister Peter MacKay gave the green light to a program to secretly monitor global telephone and internet data, including information from Canadians.
The agency is not supposed to monitor the activity of Canadian citizens, but states on its website that "The National Defence Act acknowledges that [surveillance of Canadians] may happen and provides for the Minister of National Defence to authorize this interception in specific circumstances. If a private communication is incidentally intercepted (e.g. a foreign individual we are targeting overseas is communicating with someone in Canada), CSE takes steps to protect the privacy of that information."
The new section of the website also seeks to clarify CSEC's relationship with other security agencies at home and abroad.
"In our foreign intelligence work, it is against the law for CSE to target Canadians anywhere, or anyone in Canada. We also can’t ask our allies to do anything on our behalf that is not legal for us to do," the website states. "While CSE cannot and does not target Canadians or persons in Canada in its foreign signals intelligence work, CSE’s capabilities may, under the Assistance Mandate, be employed by national security or law enforcement agencies in a variety of circumstances — including intercept operations against a Canadian or individuals in Canada. In those cases, CSE is acting in an assistance role, is operating under the requesting agency’s legal authority (such as a warrant) and is subject to the provisions of their mandate and policies."
CSEC's interactions with foreign intelligence agencies, particularly with its Five Eyes partners in the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand, have been the subject of intense scrutiny in the wake of revelations that it collaborated with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to spy at the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario in 2010. CSEC also reportedly worked with the U.S. and Britain to spy on participants at the G20 summit in London in 2012. CSEC has also reportedly conducted industrial surveillance on Brazil. All these revelations on CSEC's activities came from documents retrieved by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
CSEC has defended such espionage activities as being necessary to "protect Candians from threats."
Most recently, CSEC has been under fire after a Federal Court judge ruled in December that the agency collaborated with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to deliberately withhold information from the courts in an effort to do an end-run around the law when it applied for top-secret warrants to intercept the communications of Canadians abroad.
The situation arose five years ago when CSIS asked the Federal Court for special warrants related to two Canadian citizens — already under investigation as a potential threat to national security — that would apply while they were abroad.
CSIS assured Judge Richard Mosley the intercepts would be carried out from inside Canada, and controlled by Canadian government personnel, court records show.
Mosley granted the warrants in January 2009 based on what CSIS and CSEC had told him.
However, Canadian officials then asked for intercept help from foreign intelligence allies without telling the court. Mosley was unimpressed, saying the courts had never approved the foreign involvement.
"It is clear that the exercise of the court's warrant issuing has been used as protective cover for activities that it has not authorized," Mosley wrote in redacted reasons. "The failure to disclose that information was the result of a deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark about the scope and extent of the foreign collection efforts that would flow from the court's issuance of a warrant."
With files from The Canadian Press
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White Noise Generator
Worried someone around you is <a href="http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-07-28/strategy/29998051_1_bank-employee-consent-conversation" target="_hplink">secretly recording everything you do?</a> No fear! There's a relatively low-tech way to defeat such snoops, via white-noise-producing <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Productive-Home-Security-Prducts-Jammer/dp/B002PJ7PYS" target="_hplink">audio jammers</a>. These tiny devices use good ol' white noise to blur the sound picked up by hidden microphones and other surreptitious recording devices.
<a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/view/421768/silence-smart-phones-at-thanksgiving-dinner-with/" target="_hplink">MIT's Technology Review</a> calls it the newest, hottest Thanksgiving accessory -- but you can use phone-size "<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage" target="_hplink">Faraday cages</a>" like this (sold by <a href="http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/phonekerchief?9gtype=search&9gkw=phone kerchief&9gad=6315569457&gclid=CKWq9s2krLICFcRM4AodwDoAAw" target="_hplink">uncommongoods</a>) to block your cellphone's call signal, WiFi and GPS. Handy now that<a href=" http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/08/federal-court-rules-cops-can-warantlessly-track-suspects-via-cellphone/" target="_hplink"> federal courts are ruling that cops can track suspects via cellphone sans warrant</a>, and <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/apple-patent-could-remotely-disable-protesters-phone-cameras-7000003640/" target="_hplink">Apple can remotely disable your phone camera with a click</a>. As security researcher <a href="http://nplusonemag.com/leave-your-cellphone-at-home" target="_hplink">Jacob Appelbaum said in an interview with N+1 back in April</a>, "Cell phones are tracking devices that make phone calls." So shouldn't you be prepared for when you <em>don't</em> want to be tracked?
Hidden cameras got you down? Blind them all with a simple baseball cap lined with infrared LEDs. <a href="http://creator.wonderhowto.com/amiehold/" target="_hplink">Amie, a hacker on WonderHowTo</a>, shows the world <a href="http://mods-n-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-infrared-mask-hide-your-face-from-cameras-201280/#" target="_hplink">how to make one</a>, while <a href="http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oberwelt.de%2Fprojects%2F2008%2FFilo%2520art.htm&langpair=de%7Cen&hl=en&ie=UTF8" target="_hplink">this German art exhibition</a> lays out how these ingenious devices work.
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Sometimes hiding your face isn't enough; sometimes you don't want to be seen at all. For those days, there's camera maps. The <a href="http://www.mediaeater.com/cameras/locations.html " target="_hplink">NYC Surveillance Camera Project</a> is currently working to document the location of and working status of every security camera in New York City. This project has been replicated by others in <a href="http://www.notbored.org/boston.html" target="_hplink">Boston</a>, <a href="http://www.notbored.org/chicago-SCP.html" target="_hplink">Chicago</a> and <a href="http://www.bloomingtonsecuritycameras.com/map.html" target="_hplink">Bloomington</a>, Indiana. <a href="http://www.notbored.org" target="_hplink">Notbored.org</a> has even published a guide to making your own surveillance camera maps (<a href="http://www.notbored.org/map-making.html " target="_hplink">here</a>).
Credit to artist <a href="http://ahprojects.com/" target="_hplink">Adam Harvey</a> for this one. Inspired by the <a href="http://www.bobolinkbooks.com/Camoupedia/DazzleCamouflage.html" target="_hplink">"dazzle camouflage" </a>used on submarines and warships during World War I, he designed a series of face paint principles meant to fool the facial recognition schemas of security cameras. Check out <a href="http://dismagazine.com/dystopia/evolved-lifestyles/8115/anti-surveillance-how-to-hide-from-machines/ " target="_hplink">The Perilous Glamour of Life Under Surveillance</a> for some tips on designing your own camera-fooling face paint.
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Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips are now <a href="http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech-gadgets/rfid.htm" target="_hplink">regularly implanted</a> in passports, ID cards, credit cards and travel papers. These tiny chips make machine-reading your documents easier -- but could also let anyone with the right type of scanner <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2006-07-10/tech/rfid_1_rfid-industry-rfid-journal-rfid-chips?_s=PM:TECH " target="_hplink">scrape your information <em>and</em> track your whereabouts</a>. Luckily, gadget geeks have come to the rescue again, this time with<a href="http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/8cdd/" target="_hplink"> RFID-blocking wallets</a>. Working on the same principle as the "phonekerchief", these wallets create a Faraday cage around your items, keeping their data secure until you take them out to be scanned where they're supposed to be scanned. Destroying the chip is simpler: <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-blockkill-RFID-chips/" target="_hplink">just nuke it in the microwave for five seconds</a>. Of course, whatever you're microwaving might <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_5UYcyO3Pg" target="_hplink">burst into flames</a> first...