Canada’s newest anti-terrorism has received a first reading in parliament, stimulating discussion on the privacy implications of awarding increased surveillance powers to intelligence agencies. This first reading comes just days after the Communications Security Establishment (CES) project known as ‘Levitation’ was exposed in a file released by Edward Snowden. Mass surveillance practices, like those outlined in the leaked report, have been the subject of great debate. Just a few months ago Bill C-13 came into effect in Canada, which effectively reduces the legal barriers of collecting data and protects corporations that volunteer to share information with authorities. Although the bill was framed as a measure to counter cyber-bullying, critics argued it was essentially the same bill that failed to pass when it was framed as an anti-terrorism strategy.
Increasingly, it seems legislation does little to protect citizen privacy. The CSE reportedly taps directly into Internet cables to collect data, meaning cooperation of organizations that host files is not necessary. Moreover, a report released by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expresses ‘deep concern’ about the sharing of information between intelligence agencies associated with the ‘Five Eyes’ (Canada, USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand). This allows intelligence agencies to acquire data about their own citizens without contravening their own laws about domestic surveillance.
Snowden participated in a videoconference with students at a secondary school in Toronto three days after the first reading of the new bill. He is quoted as saying the new bill “fundamentally changes the balance of power between the citizen and the state.” He questions the ability of intelligence agencies to derive any benefit from such massive data sets, suggesting it is likely impossible to find anything useful. This chips away at the argument that invading the privacy of citizens can be justified for its contribution to a more secure society. Daniel Therrien, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, released a statement following the reading of Bill C-51 stating the expansion of surveillance powers afforded by the bill are not proportionate to the stated aims. If the bill passes, Canadians will find themselves more transparent than ever.
Hilderbrandt, Pereira, and Seglins, “CSE Tracks Millions of Downloads Daily.”
Austin, Stewart, and Clement, “Bill C-13 Has Little to Do with Cyberbullying.”
Gallagher and Greenwald, “Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads.”
Omtzigt, Mass Surveillance.
Wetselaar, “Via Streaming Video, the NSA Whistle Blower’s Discussion with a Journalist Touched on National Security, Surveillance and Their Recent Tumultuous Years.”
Thierren, Statement from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada Following the Tabling of Bill C-51 - January 30, 2015.
Austin, Lisa M., Hamish Stewart, and Andrew Clement. “Bill C-13 Has Little to Do with Cyberbullying.” The Toronto Star, November 22, 2014. http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/11/22/bill_c13_has_little....
Gallagher, Ryan, and Glenn Greenwald. “Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads.” The Intercept, January 28, 2015. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/28/canada-cse-levitation-mass....
Hilderbrandt, Amy, Michael Pereira, and Dave Seglins. “CSE Tracks Millions of Downloads Daily: Snowden Documents.” CBC, January 27, 2015. http://www.cbc.ca/1.2930120.
Omtzigt, Pieter. Mass Surveillance. Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, January 26, 2015.
Thierren, Daniel. Statement from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada Following the Tabling of Bill C-51 - January 30, 2015, January 30, 2015. https://www.priv.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2015/s-d_150130_e.asp.
Wetselaar, Sean. “Via Streaming Video, the NSA Whistle Blower’s Discussion with a Journalist Touched on National Security, Surveillance and Their Recent Tumultuous Years.” The Toronto Star, February 2, 2015. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/02/02/edward-snowden-and-greenwald-....