#CyberFLASH: How to Tackle Canada’s Privacy Deficit

n-ONLINE-PRIVACY-largeSix months ago, we argued that Canadians face a stark privacy deficit. A perfect storm of spy agency surveillance, privacy-undermining legislation, and lax privacy safeguards at government departments sparked concern from citizens right across the political spectrum.

Since then, sadly, the situation has further deteriorated. The government’s surveillance bill C-13 became law. The Supreme Court ruled that police don’t require a warrant to search the cell phones of people they arrest. The private tax information of hundreds of Canadians was leaked to the CBC. And the government is building a powerful new system to collect and analyze what Canadians are saying on Facebook.

All this within just the past few months. And just last week we learned that the government’s spy agency CSEC is spying on our private online activities on a massive scale. Documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that a CSEC program called LEVITATION systematically collects and analyzes 10-15 million downloads from popular file hosting websites each and every day. And, despite repeated government assurances to the contrary, Canadian Internet addresses were among the targets.

As constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald told the CBC, this marked the first official confirmation that Canada is engaged in the type of indiscriminate mass surveillance people have come to associate with the U.S. NSA. Anyone can be a victim — if you’ve used any of over a hundred popular file hosting websites in the past three years, chances are you’ve had your online activity collected and analyzed by CSEC, acting without a warrant and with no independent oversight.

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