So much for claims that Canadian spies don’t do domestic surveillance. CBC News reported Thursday that Canada’s electronic espionage agency, CSEC, has tracked thousands of Canadian travellers through airport wireless networks without their knowledge.
The revelation comes courtesy of documents pilfered from the U.S. National Security Agency by Edward Snowden. Journalist Glenn Greenwald collaborated with the CBC on the report.
According to the documents, CSEC has developed a sophisticated set of tools that allow spies to not only track devices on open Wi-Fi at airports, but also to continue tracking those devices into the future as they come into contact with other Wi-Fi hotspots. And if that weren’t terrifying enough, experts CBC consulted said that CSEC had so much data “it could even track the travellers back in time through the days leading up to their arrival at the airport.”
This is some truly Orwellian shit, and it’s made right here in Canada and used on Canadians — something CSEC has denied doing for months because it is unlawful for the agency to spy on citizens.
This latest Snowden revelation comes mere days after acting Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier delivered a special report to Parliament on the need for greater oversight for intelligence operations and privacy guarantees for citizens.
“Revelations surfacing over the past months have raised questions among many Canadians about privacy in the context of national security,” Bernier said. “While a certain level of secrecy is necessary within intelligence activities, so is accountability within a democracy.”
Of course, that accountability has been non-existent in Canada, and even a debate about surveillance has failed to materialize, as Michael Geist has argued.
The CBC report says this Wi-Fi tracking program was tested in 2012 and has since become fully operational, meaning it could already be in use by Canada and its intelligence allies — the U.S., U.K., New Zealand and Australia. In one exercise, according to the leaked documents, CSEC swept an entire mid-sized Canadian city and pinpointed a specific target from over 300,000 users.
Coupled with all the other terrifying capabilities these agencies have, the real question is no longer what they can do and whom they spy on but what digital activities remain outside their reach.
In a darkly funny response to questions about the Wi-Fi tracking program, CSEC replied that “no Canadian or foreign travellers’ movements were ‘tracked.’” The CBC report wryly notes the agency didn’t explain its quotation marks around “tracked.”
It’s high time Parliament seriously considered Canada’s espionage and surveillance tactics, and whether we are so desperate for data that we are willing to break the law to get it.
[CBC News][image: hobolens/Flickr]