Canada’s electronic spy agency CSEC used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of ordinary airline passengers for days after they left the terminal, according to a report by Canada’s national public broadcaster CBC.
In a top secret document titled “IP Profiling Analytics & Mission Impacts”, retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by CBC News, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) outlines how it captured information from unsuspecting travellers’ wireless devices using the airport’s free Wi-Fi system over a two-week period.
The document shows the federal intelligence agency was then able to track the travellers for a week or more as they — and their wireless devices — showed up in other Wi-Fi “hot spots” in cities across Canada and even at U.S. airports.
That included people visiting other airports, hotels, coffee shops and restaurants, libraries, ground transportation hubs, and any number of places among the literally thousands with public wireless internet access.
The document shows CSEC had so much data it could even track the travellers back in time through the days leading up to their arrival at the airport.
After the news of the document broke on Thursday (January 30) CSEC released a statement saying it did nothing illegal. That it only collected metadata, and not the content of phone calls or emails. It said that the disclosure of the document “puts our techniques at risk of being less effective when addressing threats to Canada and Canadians.”
The CBC story written by Greg Weston, Glenn Greenwald, and Ryan Gallagher, quotes Canadian surveillance expert Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, as saying metadata is “way more powerful than the content of communications. You can tell a lot more about people, their habits, their relationships, their friendships, even their political preferences, based on that type of metadata.”
CSEC is Canada’s equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
CBC News – CSEC used airport Wi-Fi to track Canadian travellers: Edward Snowden documents – here
CSEC press release – CSE statement re: January 30 CBC story – here
CTV News – Defence minister insists spy agency did not track Canadian travellers – here
CSEC May 10, 2012 document – “IP Profiling Analytics & Mission Impacts” (pdf) – here
RCI – Canadian surveillance: If everyone is a suspect, how free are you? (audio) – here