A growing number of Canadians say they are concerned about privacy, according to a new survey commissioned by the federal privacy commissioner.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a survey of over 1,500 people on Wednesday, as Canadians were learning more about how their country's electronic spy agency is conducting mass surveillance of internet downloads.
A document obtained by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is surveying 102 file-sharing sites across the globe in its search for extremists.
According to the document, that task requires CSE to sift through millions of uploads and downloads of movies, photos, music and other files every day.
The poll, commissioned by the privacy commissioner's office and conducted this past fall, indicates nine in 10 Canadians have "some level of concern" about privacy.
About one in three, or 34 per cent, of those surveyed said they were "extremely concerned," up from 25 per cent from 2012.
“Canadians deeply value privacy, but fear they are losing the control they have over their personal information. It’s imperative we find ways to enhance that sense of control so that people feel their privacy rights are being respected,” the privacy commissioner's office said in a statement.
Among the findings:
- Seventy-three per cent feel they have less protection of their personal information in their daily lives — the highest level in a decade.
- Seventy-eight per cent expressed concern about how personal information about them that ends up online might be used in the context of government surveillance.
- Fifty-seven per cent said they were “not comfortable” with government departments and agencies requesting personal information from telecommunications companies without a warrant.
- Sixty per cent said they have little expectation of privacy today, either online or in the real world because there are so many ways in which their privacy can be compromised.
Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc., interviewed 1,519 Canadians by phone for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The survey was conducted in October and November 2014.
CSE told CBC News it's "legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata, including from parts of the internet routinely used by terrorists."
The agency said it's looking to identify foreign threats to Canada.
"In collecting the analyzing metadata, CSE does not direct its activities at Canadians or anyone in Canada, and in accordance with our legislation, has a range of measures in place to protect the privacy of Canadians incidentally encountered in the course of these foreign intelligence operations," CSE said.
In its analysis of the CSE project, dubbed "Levitation," the U.S. news website The Intercept said the world's intelligence agencies are operating like "a giant X-ray machine over all our digital lives.”
"The scale of it is really mind-boggling," David Christopher of the internet advocacy group OpenMedia told CBC News.
"We’ve also seen Canadian internet addresses are among the targets, he said, "that [CSE] is actually sharing these IP addresses with spies in the U.K. and U.S."
Earlier on HuffPost:
According to documents given to Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier, the federal government asks telecom for data on subscribers 1.2 million times a year. 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.
The federal government spent more than $50 million buying high-security communications technology from the U.S. National Security Agency, according to data unearthed by Vice magazine. There have been at least 73 contracts for telecommunications equipment procured through the NSA over the past decade.
According to documents given to NDP MP Charmaine Borg under an access to information request, some telecoms are building databases of customer information specifically for police use. A Competition Bureau document noted the bureau had "accessed the Bell Canada Law Enforcement Database" 20 times in 2012-2013.
At least one Canadian telecom is evidently giving the government unrestricted access to communications on its network, 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.
Critics say Bill C-13, the “anti-cyberbullying bill” the Harper government is promoting, is essentially a back-door for a host of measures that would allow greater government intrusion into private lives. 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
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.
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 “shared with third parties, with law enforcement and of course intelligence agencies that operate in the shadows,” says Ronald Deibert, head of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.
Documents obtained by the Globe and Mail and The Canadian Press suggest that Canada is engaged in mass warrantless surveillance. 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.”
Canada’s electronic spy agency, CSEC, will see its budget skyrocket to $829 million in 2014-15, from $444 million this year. Pictured: CSEC's new $1.2-billion headquarters in Ottawa, currently under construction.
According to journalist Glenn Greenwald’s book “No Place To Hide,” Canada took some $300,000 to $400,000 from the NSA in 2012 to develop surveillance capabilities. However, that money amounts to a drop in the bucket given CSEC’s $829 million budget for electronic surveillance. Pictured: Glenn Greenwald
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 handed over control of the standard to the NSA, 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.
The Harper government allowed the U.S. to carry out widespread surveillance in Canada during the G20 meeting in Toronto in 2010, 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.