#CyberFLASH: University of Toronto researchers show how Canadian data can be vulnerable to US state surveillance

Canada cyber security newsWhile Edward Snowden leaked documents exposing the wide breadth of National Security Agency surveillance in 2013, the repercussions of those documents still inform conversations around online privacy concerns. And University of Toronto researchers have created an interactive database to show how NSA surveillance can even have an impact on Canadians.

The IXMaps database helps Canadians understand how their internet traffic moves—specifically, it helps Canadians understand how certain traffic routes, known as boomerang routes, move data into the United States and into the jurisdiction of the NSA before the data returns to Canada. The tool is funded by the .CA Community Investment program, which is dedicated to funding initiatives “keep Canadians at the forefront of the digital age,” according to its website.

“IXmaps highlights just how much of our Canadian web traffic is unnecessarily being routed through the U.S. and back againwithout our knowledge. The biggest concern about our data moving into the NSA’s jurisdiction is that Canadians do not have the same protections from NSA surveillance that Americans do, so our information is more vulnerable.” says Laura Tribe, digital rights specialist at Open Media. “ And as the Snowden revelations have highlighted, the amount of information being shared between the Five Eyes governments (Canada, U.S., U.K, Australia and New Zealand), means that our information doesn’t likely stop with just the NSA.”

Many of the major Internet providers in Canada have networks that favour north – south connections, pushing Canadian data flows toward key American routing hubs in New York, Chicago, Seattle, or California, and popular sites like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon leaves Canadian data vulnerable to American mass surveillance.

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#CyberFLASH: IXmaps illustrates how your “local” data travels through the NSA’s jurisdiction

IXmapsA new online database called IXmaps has gone live, put together by University of Toronto researchers and funded by the .CA Community Investment Program, to help Canadians understand how their data traffic moves, particularly how it moves through nodes in the United States and therefore under the jurisdiction of the U.S. National Security Agency.

The project is also designed to offer Canadians a sense of agency, in that you personally can contribute to the project, adding to the 40,000 internet routes already crowdsourced in the IXmaps database.

The most concerning point made by the project, for those that didn’t know already, is the fact that even if you’re sending an email from Point A (Halifax, let’s say) to Point B (any other Canadian destination), the data will almost definitely pass through an American data traffic hub and swept into the NSA info dragnet.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with data moving unencumbered across an interconnected global Internet infrastructure,” says the University of Toronto’s Andrew Clement. “It is, however, critical that Canadians understand the implications of their data being stored on U.S servers and moving through U.S. jurisdiction. ISPs need to be transparent, privacy protective and accountable custodians of user information in this regard. Internet users should be fully informed consumers and citizens when making choices about their sensitive personal data.”

And even if you’re not sending an email, but merely using a service like Facebook, Google, YouTube or Amazon, these are American companies operating in American jurisdictions, so again, subject to data snooping and the hysterical overreach of the Patriot Act.

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#CyberFLASH: Report Implores Canadian Internet Providers to be More Transparent About Protecting Consumer Data

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A new report authored by privacy experts suggests Canadian Internet providers “need to be much more transparent about how they protect their customers’ private information.”

The report found all providers have room for improvement, though smaller independent providers tend to be more transparent overall than their larger counterparts and for more visibly keeping domestic Canadian Internet traffic within Canada. Entitled Keeping Internet Users in the Know or in the Dark, the report was released today by IXmaps and New Transparency Projects.

However, Canadian ISPs are overall more transparent than the foreign carriers that handle domestic Canadian internet traffic, according to the report.

“We’ve just seen that in 99% of Canadian Border Services Agency’s requests for subscriber information, telecom companies have turned this sensitive data over without a warrant. Internet providers must be accountable to the Canadian public for how they handle our personal information,” says Andrew Clement, a University of Toronto professor who spearheaded the project alongside Dr. Jonathan Obar.

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