#CyberFLASH: Your government is spying on you online. Here’s what you can do about it

cra-data-security-2Another week, another revelation originating from the seemingly unlimited trove of Edward Snowden documents.

This week, the CBC reported that Canada was among several countries whose surveillance agencies actively exploited security vulnerabilities in a popular mobile web browser used by hundreds of millions of people. Rather than alerting the company and the public that the software was leaking personal information, they viewed the security gaps as a surveillance opportunity.

In the days before Snowden, these reports would have sparked a huge uproar. More than half a billion people around the world use UC Browser, the mobile browser in question, suggesting that this represents a massive security leak. At stake was information related to users’ identity, communication activities, and location data – all accessible to telecom companies, network providers and surveillance agencies.

Yet coming on the heels of global revelations of surveillance of network exchange points and Internet giants along with Canadian disclosures of daily mass surveillance of millions of Internet downloads and airport wireless networks, nothing surprises anymore. Instead, there is a resigned belief that privacy on the network has been lost to surveillance agencies who use every measure at their disposal to monitor or gather virtually all communications.

While the surveillance stories become blurred over time, there is an important distinction with the latest reports. The public has long been told that sacrificing some privacy may be part of a necessary trade-off to provide effective security.

However, by failing to safeguard the security of more than 500 million mobile users, the Five Eyes surveillance agencies — Canada, the U.S., the U.K., New Zealand and Australia — have sent the message that the public must perversely sacrifice their personal security as well.

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