When news broke out about the NSA spying on the American people, some wondered, “is the CSEC doing the same to us?” while others wondered, “we have an intelligence agency in Canada?” Whichever question you were asking, you should be fully aware of Communications Security Establishment Canada and their seemingly similar mandate to the NSA.
Recently, news surfaced about CSEC using the data received via airport Wifi to spy on the overly polite citizens of Canada. By collecting their metadata, CSEC allegedly has the ability to build profiles on average Canadians, which would probably be a lot more accurate than their eHarmony accounts.
Of course, the CSEC was quick to deny these allegations. They claimed they were simply performing routine actions, grabbing “historic metadata”* that was “just a part of [their] normal global collection,” according to John Forster, chief of CSEC.
*Historic metadata? How historic could it be? Are they working really hard to uncover Abraham Lincoln’s metadata? I’m confused.
Does it really matter, though? Is being spied on really the biggest of our worries, as Canadians? I can assure you, it’s not.
If you’re spying on me, you’re wasting your time
The everyday average citizen such as me or possibly you (you could be above average, who knows) generally doesn’t really have much to hide – so why is it such a huge deal when we discover that organizations designed to protect us occasionally insert themselves into our conversations?
In fact, I think it’s sort of comical, the idea that someone would actually be spying on me. I feel bad for the sap that’s stuck watching my every move, because it’s nothing exciting. At all.
I completely understand the average Canadian’s right to privacy – especially if you haven’t ever performed any illegal activity. Don’t lie, though. I know you jaywalked to Tim Hortons at least once to get your fix. Even if you haven’t, I’m sure that music you downloaded was completely ethical. And then, you lawbreakers (could use more active word like hooligans, crooks, or criminals ) have the audacity to play the “I’m offended that you even think I could be a criminal card?”
Whichever the case, let’s keep in mind that they aren’t targeting those people in specific, especially considering the story mentioned earlier, where CSEC was allegedly using airport Wifi to record the metadata of those connected to it. This means that they obviously are collecting it with some obvious, targeted intention. They don’t care about 37-year-old Gary Anderchuk, whose clean record was just using the Wifi to stream episodes of Dexter (unless he has an impressive collection of blood slides).
And besides, if you really want to avoid being tracked, stop using the technology that makes it easier to track you. Buy your groceries with Bitcoin, the anonymous crypto-currency. Don’t log on to public Wifi. Don’t use credit or debit cards. Move to a shack in the woods. It seems so simple, yet so difficult for many citizens.
Imagine going to your favourite coffee shop and not using their public Wifi. I bet you can’t even imagine it. Though, carrying all your money around (to avoid banks) is cumbersome and dangerous. And, unless you plan on buying your groceries from the black market, you’re pretty much hooped with Bitcoin (for now, at least.)
Sure, realistically, Canadians should have the right to use these technologies without the risk of being tracked. However, the (somewhat) harsh reality is that organizations such as CSEC will always have the ability to track us, barring the elimination of the aforementioned technologies. And hey, at least they aren’t doing this sort of thing. Part of the reason why is that we have a Privacy Commissioner, whose office spends the day keeping CSEC in check. In the great Canadian fashion, we have one branch of government opposing another.
All I’m trying to point out is that if you aren’t performing any illegal activities, what does it matter anyway? Unless you’re trying to ensure that NOBODY knows you were the one that bought that Nickelback CD back in 2003 (which I don’t blame you for trying to hide), there’s not really much the collection of just metadata can do to hurt you, other than your reputation.