The Department of National Defence (DND), and its associated research wing, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), are looking to purchase software to analyze social media streams in real-time. The platform the DRDC are seeking will monitor sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. Also subject to review by intelligence officers will be Reddit, blogs, message boards, and comments section on news sites. The documents posted online indicate that the platform will be directed at social media users in “non-democratic states.” A DND spokesperson has said that the platform will not be used on Canadians online activity, and will comply with domestic privacy laws. However, the possibility of “incidental” collection remains, where Canadian information is accidentally gathered in the process.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Citizen Lab Postdoctoral Fellow Christopher Parsons said that a key question would be how this incidental question is intended to be minimized. “They might try to exclude Canada itself, but of course Canadians travel all around the world. So if you’re targeting people or monitoring social media in certain regions of the world, you can be guaranteed that there are Canadians traveling there for business or pleasure or what have you,” Parsons said.
Parsons added that he was surprised to see social media platforms that are popular in other parts of the world, such as Weibo in China and LiveJournal in Russia, absent from the list of websites the military intends to target.