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January 28, 2015

Canada’s Spy Agency Monitoring Millions of Internet Users: Snowden Document

Canada’s spy agency is keeping tabs on the online activities of millions of Internet users, including Canadians, according to a new joint report from The Intercept and CBC News.

The Communications Security Establishment, better known as the CSE, keeps an eye on more than 100 popular file hosting websites such as RapidShare and SendSpace, enabling it to spy on up to 15 million downloads each day. As part of the surveillance, the CSE also collects millions of IP addresses — and a number of these are Canadian Internet addresses of individual users.

The data amassed is then shared with foreign spy agencies, according to the report.

PrintThe CES spying program, codenamed LEVITATION, was outed by documents from none other than National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. According to the report, LEVITATION is the Canadian government’s effort as worldwide Internet mass surveillance.

The documents revealed LEVITATION can monitor downloads in a number of countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and North America.

The function of the CES program is to comb through data looking for anyone who is uploading or downloading content in any way connected to terrorism: bomb-making guides, for instance.

The problem is, innocent Internet users are also being caught up in the surveillance. For instance, a top-secret PowerPoint presentation from 2012 revealed that the LEVITATION system was overrun with data on downloads of the musical TV series Glee.

CSE discovers roughly 350 “interesting” downloads a month— less than 0.0001 per cent of the total collected data, according to the report. communications manager David Christopher told The Intercept the documents provided by Snowden prove Canada is engaging in “warrantless surveillance of our private online activities, despite repeated government assurances to the contrary.”

“Given that Canadian IP addresses are among the targets, this amounts to spying on the private information of innocent Canadians, at any time, without a warrant,” Christopher said. “This alarming development underlines the need for robust action to rein in CSE's reckless and out of control spying activities. When will the government finally take responsibility and come clean to taxpayers about what's being done in their name?”

This is not the first time Canada has been dragged into the U.S.’s NSA scandal which began in June of 2013 after Snowden released documents to the media that proved the agency was spying on American citizens.

Snowden documents released more than one year ago revealed the Canadian government gave the NSA the green light to spy on the 2010 G20 talks in Toronto as well as the G8 summit, which was held a few days earlier.

As reported by CBC News, the documents showed the NSA performed extensive surveillance during both summits which were attended by U.S. President Barack Obama and 25 other foreign politicians.