Levitation : Canada running global mass surveillance program; monitor 15 million downloads daily

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Canada’s spy agency is running its own global Internet mass surveillance program – and Canadians are among the targets

Amber Hildebrandt, Michael Pereira and Dave Seglins
CBC: January 28, 2015

Canada’s electronic spy agency sifts through millions of videos and documents downloaded online every day by people around the world, as part of a sweeping bid to find extremist plots and suspects, CBC News has learned.

Details of the Communications Security Establishment project dubbed “Levitation” are revealed in a document obtained by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and recently released to CBC News.

Under Levitation, analysts with the electronic eavesdropping service can access information on about 10 to 15 million uploads and downloads of files from free websites each day, the document says.

“Every single thing that you do — in this case uploading/downloading files to these sites — that act is being archived, collected and analyzed,” says Ron Deibert, director of the University of Toronto-based internet security think-tank Citizen Lab, who reviewed the document.

In the document, a PowerPoint presentation written in 2012, the CSE analyst who wrote it jokes about being overloaded with innocuous files such as episodes of the musical TV series Glee in their hunt for terrorists.

CBC analyzed the document in collaboration with the U.S. news website The Intercept, which obtained it from Snowden.

(read the full article at CBC)

Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads

Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept: January 28, 2015

Canada’s leading surveillance agency is monitoring millions of Internet users’ file downloads in a dragnet search to identify extremists, according to top-secret documents.

The covert operation, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, taps into Internet cables and analyzes records of up to 15 million downloads daily from popular websites commonly used to share videos, photographs, music, and other files.

The revelations about the spying initiative, codenamed LEVITATION, are the first from the trove of files provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden to show that the Canadian government has launched its own globe-spanning Internet mass surveillance system.

According to the documents, the LEVITATION program can monitor downloads in several countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. It is led by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the NSA. (The Canadian agency was formerly known as “CSEC” until a recent name change.)

The latest disclosure sheds light on Canada’s broad existing surveillance capabilities at a time when the country’s government is pushing for a further expansion of security powers following attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last year.

Ron Deibert, director of University of Toronto-based Internet security think tank Citizen Lab, said LEVITATION illustrates the “giant X-ray machine over all our digital lives.”

“Every single thing that you do – in this case uploading/downloading files to these sites – that act is being archived, collected and analyzed,” Deibert said, after reviewing documents about the online spying operation for CBC News.

David Christopher, a spokesman for Vancouver-based open Internet advocacy group OpenMedia.ca, said the surveillance showed “robust action” was needed to rein in the Canadian agency’s operations.

“These revelations make clear that CSE engages in large-scale warrantless surveillance of our private online activities, despite repeated government assurances to the contrary,” Christopher told The Intercept.

(read the full article at The Intercept)

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