THE BLOG

Just Clicking on a Link Could Make You a Target For In-Depth Government Surveillance

01/31/2015 12:39 EST | Updated 04/02/2015 05:59 EDT
Have you ever used Megaupload or Rapidshare to store or share files online? Because if you have used those services, or any of over 100 other popular file hosting services, there's a very good chance that agents at Canada's spy agency CSE (formerly CSEC) have been rifling through your private, personal uploads.

A report from The Intercept revealed that CSE agents been conducting surveillance on files that people upload using services like Rapidshare and Megaupload. Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher report that CSE analyzed between 10 and 15 million downloads per day from the popular file-sharing services.

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Despite the huge volume of data vacuumed up in the effort, CSE only deemed 350 download events "interesting"- only 0.00001% of the total files swept up for examination.

Even more disturbing, it seems that CSE deliberately targeted Canadian IP addresses in violation of the law and contrary to repeated government assurances. They then cross-referenced the IP addresses of file-hosting users with other databases to learn the identity of these users. So basically, ending up as a target for in-depth surveillance could be as easy as clicking on a link.

In an attempt to downplay Canadians' concerns about pervasive and expensive online surveillance, then Defence Minister Peter MacKay told parliament in June 2013 that "we don't target Canadians, okay?" MacKay held ministerial responsibility for CSEC (as it was then called) at the time, so he was either woefully out of the loop or lying to parliament. Neither possibility inspires confidence, particularly when MacKay is set to deliver new anti-privacy legislation on Friday, January 29.

It gets worse: thanks to international agreements with the Five Eyes surveillance partners, much of this information has been shared with foreign spy agencies like the NSA in the United States and GCHQ in Great Britain.

This type of file surveillance is a massive violation of Canadians' constitutionally-enshrined right to privacy. It's also a huge waste of money.

As one of our community members quipped on our Facebook page:
"The spy agency should start offering free online backup services. They seem to be collecting everything anyways."

Canadians from all walks of life have been demanding more privacy safeguards and receiving the opposite from their government. It's time for the Conservatives to rein CSE in and restore online privacy by putting a stop to all programs of mass surveillance.

Eva Prkachin is Online Community Facilitator with OpenMedia.ca

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