In an article published in the National Post, Citizen Lab Post-doctoral Fellow Christopher Parsons explains that the activities of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) constitute as spying on Canadians. Parsons summarizes several findings regarding the mandate and practices of the organization leaked over the last year and a half, many of which strongly undermine CSE’s claim that Canadians are “not targeted” by domestic security agencies.
Christopher Parsons writes that “Targeting doesn’t mean what most Canadians might believe it would. For CSE, collecting Canadians’ metadata, such as email addresses, Internet protocol addresses, cookie identifiers, Facebook identifiers, Google identifiers, geolocation information, websites visited, phone numbers, types of communications engaged in, file downloads, and more, doesn’t constitute ‘targeting’ Canadians.” CSE maintains that mass collection of this information is done “incidentally.”
He added that documents such as those revealed by the CBC last year, indicate that CSE has used its powers to collect Canadian users’ metadata linked to airports, coffee shops, libraries and more, all without consent. Parsons calls for greater accountability and reasonable conversation on the part of the Canadian government, especially in regards to the legality of such technology use.
Christopher Parsons also contributed to the creation of CBC’s CSE Toolbox, an interactive that summarizes the techniques CSE can employ to target Canadian’s telecommunications and online data. Tools include the ability to redirect someone to a fake website, and extract classified information from computer networks. CSE failed to answer whether it uses the tools cited in leaked documents, and cited the Security of Information Act as preventing it from commenting.
Christopher Parsons was interviewed by the Globe and Mail regarding a leaked NSA document, which he reviewed with the Globe. The document is a 2012 presentation by a US intelligence analyst, titled “Private Networks: Analysis, Contextualization and Setting the Vision.” In one of the 40 pages of the document, the Royal Bank of Canada and Rogers are named, though it is unclear what information the NSA has collected about these companies. Parsons argues that the leaked document constitutes plans for watching communications come in and out of a network in order to determine access points to these large firms’ digital infrastructure in the future. “This is preparing the battlefield so it could later be used,” he said.