Tuesday, September 23, 2014

CSEC in the limelight

OpenMedia.ca has released a new and very slick video about CSEC: How much does spy agency CSEC know about your private life?



OpenMedia has been doing great work raising awareness about electronic snooping and other issues related to the future of the Internet, and the video is well worth a watch.

But it's quite off target in my view, in terms both of the degree to which Canadian communications are likely to be collected by CSEC and of the legality of the activities that CSEC does undertake.

There is good reason to believe that CSEC is scrupulous about obeying the law as it is interpreted for the agency by the Department of Justice. Whether all of those interpretations would survive a court challenge is open to question, of course, and there is some chance that we will eventually get an answer to that question.

But the fact that CSEC's activities are, in the eyes of the government, legal does not erase all of the possible privacy, liberty, security, and public benefit concerns that can be raised about those activities or those of CSEC's Five Eyes allies. OpenMedia would do better to focus on those issues, in my view, than on the narrow question of legality.

Justin Ling has more on the OpenMedia campaign here: "The New Offensive On Canadian Government Spying," Motherboard, 22 September 2014.

There's a nice irony in the fact that one of the "usual suspects" that Ling notes supports the campaign is Amnesty International. Amnesty's founder, Peter Benenson, was a codebreaker at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, and he worked in the same section as Kevin O'Neill, who later became Chief of CSE.

Other recent items of interest:

- Ben Makuch, "Canada's Spy Agency Partnered with Quebec's Hackfest to Recruit New Hackers," Motherboard, 17 September 2014.

- Matthew Braga, "Cyber Insecurity: What we don’t know about Canada’s digital spy agency," The Walrus, October 2014. Good piece.

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