Ever since Edward Snowden’s trove of NSA documents began leaking last year, a steady stream of news has filtered in about Canada’s involvement in the NSA’s efforts, as well as its own efforts at electronic surveillance.
The latest is the revelation earlier this week that the NSA gave Canada’s federal government somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000 in 2012 to develop electronic spying capabilities. But if news reports are to be believed, Canada’s involvement in global electronic surveillance goes far deeper than that.
The Snowden leaks come amid ongoing efforts by the Harper government to pass laws updating law enforcement’s access to private citizens’ communications. The latest efforts focus on the Tories’ anti-cyberbullying bill and their so-called “Digital Privacy Act,” both of which are causing concerns among privacy advocates for what they see as an expansion of the government’s ability to snoop.
Here are 12 uncomfortable revelations, allegations and facts the Harper government would rather you not talk about as it goes about reforming Canada’s digital laws:
1. Feds Make Warrantless Requests For Data 1.2 Million Times A Year
According to documents given to Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier, the federal government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/04/30/warrantless-disclosure-telecoms-canada_n_5233399.html" target="_blank">asks telecom for data on subscribers 1.2 million times a year</a>. That’s one request for every 30 Canadians, every year. Most of those requests don’t involve a warrant, and in 2011 telecoms complied with at least 784,000 of those requests.
2. The Feds Buy Their Phones From The NSA
The federal government spent more than $50 million buying high-security communications technology from the U.S. National Security Agency, according to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/04/25/canada-government-nsa-equipment_n_5213342.html" target="_blank">data unearthed by Vice magazine</a>. There have been at least 73 contracts for telecommunications equipment procured through the NSA over the past decade.
3. Some Of Canada’s Telecoms Have Built Databases Specifically For Police
According to documents given to NDP MP Charmaine Borg under an access to information request, some telecoms are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/03/26/warrantless-surveillance-canada-telecoms_n_5036936.html" target="_blank">building databases of customer information specifically for police use</a>. A Competition Bureau document noted the bureau had "accessed the Bell Canada Law Enforcement Database" 20 times in 2012-2013.
4. Some Telecoms Are Apparently Giving The Government Access To Everything
At least one Canadian telecom is evidently <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/01/warrantless-data-requests-canada_n_5246354.html" target="_blank">giving the government unrestricted access to communications on its network</a>, according to documents from Canada’s privacy commissioner. The unnamed telecom says the government has the ability to copy the traffic on its communications network, then mine the copied data to determine what sort it is.
5. The Anti-Cyberbullying Bill Is Really A Pro-Spying Bill
Critics say Bill C-13, the “anti-cyberbullying bill” the Harper government is promoting, is essentially <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/michael-geist/harper-cyberbullying-bill_b_4317791.html" target="_blank">a back-door for a host of measures that would allow greater government intrusion into private lives</a>. The bill would provide legal immunity to telecoms that hand over customer data without a warrant, and would lower the standard under which police can get warrantless data. Digital rights group OpenMedia says the bill “would let ... authorities create detailed profiles of Canadians based on who they talk to and what they say and do online.” Pictured: Justice Minister Peter MacKay
6. The ‘Digital Privacy Act’ Is An Attack On Digital Privacy
Industry Minister James Moore's Digital Privacy Act is being billed as “protection for Canadians when they surf the web and shop online,” but critics say it amounts to a wholesale threat to the privacy rights it ostensibly aims to enshrine. Bill S-4 would allow internet service providers to share customer data with any organization that is investigating a possible breach of contract, such as a copyright violation, or illegal activity. Thus, private corporations, and not just the government, could obtain personal information about you. The bill would also eliminate court oversight of file-sharing lawsuits, which critics fear would lead to the sort of “copyright trolling” seen in the U.S.
7. There’s Pretty Much No Way The NSA Isn’t Spying On Canadians
An estimated 90 per cent of Canadian Internet traffic moves through the U.S., which means that Canadians are being caught up in the NSA’s surveillance dragnet, experts say. Data passes through “filters and checkpoints” and is “<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/08/nsa-spying-canada_n_3408662.html" target="_blank">shared with third parties, with law enforcement and of course intelligence agencies that operate in the shadows</a>,” says Ronald Deibert, head of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.
8. Canada Probably Has An NSA-Style Program Of Its Own
Documents obtained by the Globe and Mail and The Canadian Press suggest that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/10/nsa-surveillance-canada-_n_3416730.html" target="_blank">Canada is engaged in mass warrantless surveillance</a>. The documents show then-Defence Minister Peter MacKay signed a ministerial directive in November, 2011, authorizing the re-start of “a secret electronic eavesdropping program that scours global telephone records and Internet data trails – including those of Canadians – for patterns of suspicious activity.”
9. Stephen Harper Just Doubled The Budget For Electronic Spying
Canada’s electronic spy agency, CSEC, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/27/csec-budget_n_4869684.html" target="_blank">will see its budget skyrocket to $829 million in 2014-15, from $444 million this year</a>. Pictured: CSEC's new $1.2-billion headquarters in Ottawa, currently under construction.
10. Canada’s Spies Are Taking Money From The NSA
According to journalist Glenn Greenwald’s book “No Place To Hide,” <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/13/nsa-canada-money-glenn-greenwald-book_n_5317673.html" target="_blank">Canada took some $300,000 to $400,000 from the NSA in 2012 to develop surveillance capabilities</a>. However, that money amounts to a drop in the bucket given CSEC’s $829 million budget for electronic surveillance. Pictured: Glenn Greenwald
11. Canada Allowed The NSA To Hack Secure Encryption Keys
The CSEC was in charge of developing an international standard for encryption keys to transmit data securely. But according to documents obtained by the New York Times, CSEC <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/09/11/csec-nsa-encryption_n_3907748.html" target="_blank">handed over control of the standard to the NSA</a>, allowing the U.S. surveillance agency to build back-doors that allowed it to crack the encryptions. As a result, the NSA was able to crack data transmissions that internet users thought were secure.
12. The U.S. Spied On The Toronto G20 Conference
The Harper government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/28/toronto-g20-spying_n_4353762.html" target="_blank">allowed the U.S. to carry out widespread surveillance in Canada during the G20 meeting in Toronto in 2010</a>, according to documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Few details of the espionage were released, but it appears this is a sort of rotating circle of spying: Canada helped the U.S. and U.K. spy on the 2009 G20 conference in London.
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