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CSEC Tracking Canadians Through Airport Wi-Fi Connections

Posted by Matt on January 31, 2014         Tagged with: surveillance, csec

Like most of us, I'm an Internet junkie. I need my constant feed of news, updates and cute cat videos, even when I'm travelling. I joke sometimes that if it were possible, I would boycott any airport that didn't provide free wi-fi. I won't be making that joke anymore. It was foolish of me really. I should know by now, ain't nothing free.

The latest leaked slides from heroic whistleblower and/or treasonous traitor (depending on who you ask) Edward Snowden reveal that CSEC has been monitoring Canadians whereabouts by tracking their connections to airport wi-fi networks.

I've discussed CSEC's mandate before, but I'll save you the mouse-click and reproduce the relevant parts here:

273.64 (1) The mandate of the Communications Security Establishment is
(a) to acquire and use information from the global information infrastructure for the purpose of providing foreign intelligence, in accordance with Government of Canada intelligence priorities;
(b) to provide advice, guidance and services to help ensure the protection of electronic information and of information infrastructures of importance to the Government of Canada; and
(c) to provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies in the performance of their lawful duties.

(2) Activities carried out under paragraphs (1)(a) and (b)
(a) shall not be directed at Canadians or any person in Canada; and
(b) shall be subject to measures to protect the privacy of Canadians in the use and retention of intercepted information.

As pretty much everyone interviewed for the CBC article points out, given that this mandate specifically prohibits CSEC from targeting anyone in Canada, and people in Canadian airports are clearly in Canada, it's difficult to see how this operation could possibly be legal. For their part, CSEC appears to be relying on the "it's just metadata" defense.