Last summer, I discussed the Snowden leaks and concerns about Canadian
surveillance activities with a senior government official. The official
remarked that in the wake of the Snowden revelations the political risk
did not lie with surveillance itself, since most Canadians basically
trusted their government and intelligence agencies to avoid misuse (the
steady stream of Snowden leaks and Canada's increasingly apparent role
may have changed this analysis). Rather, the real concern was with being
caught lying about the surveillance activities. This person was of the
view that Canadians would accept surveillance, but they would not accept
lying about surveillance programs.
Those comments came to mind over the past week with the latest revelations about CSEC metadata surveillance. While the story
has been characterized as an airport wifi surveillance issue, it is
clear that the airport wifi angle misses the real concern. The leaked document
and subsequent explanations reveal an attempt to identify travel patterns and geographic locations
using user ID data over a two week period provided by a Canadian source
(CSEC referred to this as metadata in the Senate committee hearing
yesterday) along with a database of geo-locations of IP addresses
supplied by Quova (I once served as an advisor to Quova). By identifying
airport wifi IP addresses along with broader usage data and
geo-identifying information, CSEC hopes to be able to identify
locational movements of individual users. Bruce Schneier provides a helpful review of the likely intent of the program.
While some argued the program tracks Canadians and is therefore illegal (citing Charter violations and activities beyond the CSEC mandate), the Justice Minister maintains the program is legal and CSEC has defended the program in a release the day after the story broke and again at the Senate committee yesterday. Moreover, the CSEC Commissioner has posted a somewhat cryptic statement that emphasizes the independence of the review process. Ryan Gallagher has responded to those statements with a post arguing the denials are hollow.
TagsShareTuesday February 04, 2014