Home > Digital Policy, NSA, Politics, Privacy, Telecommunications > Is Canadian Telecom Protecting Canadians Against Surveillance?

Is Canadian Telecom Protecting Canadians Against Surveillance?

The Communications Security Establishment Commissioner (CSEC) which is the watch dog over the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) concluded a three year investigation yesterday looking at CSIS’s domestic spying activities. In his annual report retired judge and Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment Robert Decary stated: “a small number of records suggested the possibility that some activities may have been directed at Canadians, contrary to law. A number of CSEC records relating to these activities were unclear or incomplete. After in-depth and lengthy review, I was unable to reach a definitive conclusion about compliance or non-compliance with the law.”

This should come as no surprise as revelations to date strongly suggest that US allies are deeply involved in assisting the US on it’s surveillance capabilities and possibly sharing that information with each other.  The UK recently went as far as detaining a Guardian journalist’s significant other under terrorism legislation in an attempt to intimidate that journalist from continuing to write about NSA leaks. The UK version of the NSA went as far as entering the Guardian News building and making the editor of this news source destroy any equipment that held NSA leaked material.  According to NBC sources authorities believe the leaked NSA files by Snowden detail data collection by the “five eyes” of US surveillance which includes Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US obviously.

In the CSEC report Decary suggested that: “it is in the international sharing of personal information where the risks are higher than for sharing involving domestic partners”. However if all these “five eyes” are sharing data with each other than realistically the risks are just as high domestically as they would be with our partners.

As one example, Rogers e-mail service is partnered up with Yahoo.  Upon signing up with a new account you have to agree to two privacy policies.  One is Rogers and the other is Yahoo which is in the US and where most of the e-mail data for Canadians is stored.  Even that most information collected by CSIS is on foreign communications, data collected in the US can be shared among these “five eyes” partners.  Most of our domestic data does route through US severs and then back to Canada. Presumably Canadians are just at risk as anyone else in these countries from domestic spying.  Are these “five eyes” partners able to obtain information outside of domestic law?  A very interesting question since even Google is currently fighting UK privacy laws stating that the only laws that apply to them are in California.

New Zealand just passed it’s domestic spying laws, Australia has been recently outed, now Canada.  In almost every initial report on the NSA Snowden leaks has brought forth revelations that those who have implemented domestic spying capabilities, the domestic telecom industry has been forced to comply. Pre-NSA leaks this blog was responsible for sparking debates around the responsibility of private telecom companies to uphold the law (which Teksavvy was not directly involved in) regarding telecom customers private information on request, and to question the legal merits of those requests.  That sparked a debate within the legal and telecom industry regarding 3rd party access to information, in which some are against the idea of testing the legal merits of requests for subscribers personal information.  Why would that be?

Just how far of a reach does this “five eyes” surveillance partnership go within our Canadian borders and how much is the Canadian telecom industry currently involved? The US telecom industry is remaining extremely silent on the issue, and for the most part Canadian telecom providers have as well.  Are the concerns of Provincial Governments overstated surrounding personal data collection aboard as Michael Geist has suggested in a recent column? Is simply moving our personal information to domestic servers protecting our personal information from being scooped up by this “five eyes” surveillance dragnet, when traffic is routing cross-border to the US to get to domestic servers, thus considered foreign when routing back up to local data centers? And most importantly will we ever find out the answers to these questions since members of this “five eyes” alliance are moving in quite strongly to negate such questions from coming forward?

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  1. August 23, 2013 at 4:30 PM

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