Canadian Spy Agency Tracking Users Of Free WiFi At Airports, Hotels, Coffee Shops & Libraries

from the free-wifi dept

A few years ago, we wrote about why, for many years, whenever you were in a public place like an airport or a hotel, you'd often see an available WiFi option called Free Public WiFi -- though if you looked carefully, it was an ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network, rather than to a WiFi access point. It turns out that it was because of a stupid bug in Windows XP, which also explains why it's a lot less common these days. Of course, some people always would joke that it was really spy agencies trying to get you to connect to their WiFi. Except, that might not be that much of a joke. The latest reporting on Snowden documents from Glenn Greenwald, in association with some reporters from the CBC, reveals that the Canadian equivalent of the NSA, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) has been tracking people as they connect to WiFi networks in a variety of public places including airports, hotels, coffee shops and libraries. The main focus appears to be on airports, but then they use that data to create a map of information about where someone goes.

Just two months ago, the head of the CSEC, John Foster, insisted that the CSEC does not spy on anyone in Canada:
“I can’t comment in detail on the intelligence operations or capabilities of ourselves or our allies. What I can tell you is that CSEC, under its legislation, cannot target Canadians anywhere in the world or anyone in Canada, including visitors to Canada.”
And yet, as this report shows, they absolutely are collecting tons of data on Canadians and visitors to Canada. And not just a few. The document shows that in a test that "swept a modest size city," they collected information on over 300,000 people. Also, they can then use that information to track where a person goes, creating profiles over time. The document reveals that they're just testing this capability (which was created in coordination with the NSA), but it indicates the plan is for all of the "Five Eyes" countries to use a similar system -- though the reporters say they've been told the system is now fully operational, and not just in test mode.

It's not clear from the document exactly how the CSEC is able to get this data. The CBC report questions a few potential sources, such as key airports and Boingo (the company that supplies WiFi to many public hotspots) and both deny providing the information. The Boingo denial seems reasonable, since in the presentation it actually indicates that they have trouble getting information on users on Boingo's network.

The reporters spoke to multiple experts who all say that there's no possible way that this effort is legal under Canadian law. After all, as Foster himself stated above, the CSEC cannot target anyone on Canadian soil, but they clearly do. The article even quotes Ontario's privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian who seems horrified by this revelation:
Ontario's privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian says she is "blown away" by the revelations.

"It is really unbelievable that CSEC would engage in that kind of surveillance of Canadians. Of us.

"I mean that could have been me at the airport walking around… This resembles the activities of a totalitarian state, not a free and open society."
For all the wonders of free WiFi, there's one more downside to keep in mind. If you're using it, you're almost certainly being tracked by a spy agency.

Filed Under: airports, canada, csec, free wifi, john foster, library, privacy, tracking, wifi

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  1. identicon
    Michael Heroux, 13 Jun 2014 @ 5:21pm




    Michael Heroux said

    The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada finally got back to us after ignoring us for quite some time now. When we first contacted her office they wanted more specific information from us to prove to them that the 30-08 warrants Judge Richard Mosley issued were actually for us. We know they have the security clearance to find out and we know they know the warrants were for us but they keep saying prove it. We sent them the names of the first 2 agents they sent to investigate us in 2008 and they didn't even acknowledge the agents in any way. They didn't comment on the agents, they didn't ask questions about the agents or nothing. They are just ignoring anything we tell them even though they keep asking for more information. The first 2 agents they sent to investigate us in 2008 were our daughters. Our 2 daughters came back home to live with us in 2008 and told us they were working for Canadian Intelligence. They told us the agent that they were working for wanted them to set us up. It has got us worried. We don't know whether Canadian Intelligence is playing some sort of sick game with us but a stranger approached us out of the blue last year and told us our daughters have been murdered. We have not heard from our 2 daughters since they were sent back home to investigate us for Canadian Intelligence. All The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada is saying to us is prove it. They want us to name names of the Intelligence agents we met in 2008-2009 but they won't offer us any protection against further assasination attempts against my wife and kids and I even though they know about the previous attempts. We are still being monitored as I write this and we have reason to believe they are using foreign spies from their international coalition. The last thing The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada did was refer us to the recommendations that she made to Parliament on our behalf. The same thing is going on with The Justice Department Of Canada, all they want from us is more information from us to prove the 30-08 warrants were for us but even though they know about our daughters working as agents for Canadian Intelligence and they know about the poisonings and assasination attempts against us and they know the 30-08 warrants were for us all they are saying now is they don't have control over the 30-08 warrant information we are looking for against us and they are saying Canadian Intelligence has the information we are looking for. Both agencies have security clearance and they know everything but they are playing dumb but they still want us to name names about the agents we met between 2008-2009 and neither of them are willing to offer us protection against further assasination attemtps against us.
    After our daughters left our home when they were done investigating us in 2008 many agents were contacting us in the beginning of 2009 offering us large sums of money if we left Canada for a while. We knew they were trying to get us to leave Canada but not until Judge Richard Mosley decision did we realize why. They were offering us luxury vacations in the sun and basically anything we wanted just to leave Canda for a while. Now we realize it was just a ploy to get their International Coalition involved, we probably would never have been heard from again. They also wanted us to bring our kids along. The good agents were warning us that our life was in danger and they were telling us to move back to British Columbia for our own safety. The local police force would escort us home late at night when we left the downtown area and we always wondered why we were so special. We decided to listen to the good agents and move back to British Columbia for our safety. Just as we were getting ready to move a few agents approached us and offered us $250,000 dollars if we stay in Ontario. We couldn't believe it. But we left anyways. Thanks for reading.

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