The effect on digital privacy in Canada following the PRISM scandal

by Andrew Roach on June 11, 2013

The technology world has been rocked by the US PRISM software which saw the US government agencies use the Internet as a means to carry out surveillance within North America.

Following on from the fallout, the Office for the Privacy Commissioner has ordered their own investigation to see whether Canadian users have been affected by the scheme.

Jennifer Stoddart said that the inquiry will be carried out in partnership with the regulator of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in order to see if there has been any privacy breaches.

The PRISM operation was carried out by the NSA in America and accessed the databases of several top internet companies within America.

One main focus on the new investigation will see if Canadian agencies have been doing the same thing within Canada.

Unlike the NSA and their PRISM operation, the CSE has made their online activity known to federal regulators since it began its online investigations back in 2006.

Most of the focus surrounds the use of metadata which details basic information about an individual browser such as their location and means of accessing the internet.

With metadata having the potential to give authorities a snapshot into what each individual user is doing, the government agencies can only use the information in certain ways and conditions that conform to privacy laws.

Even though this may sound like the government is snooping, ministers have been quick to defend themselves and have insisted that their targets are firmly based overseas.

This was underlined by Defence Minister Peter MacKay who told fellow ministers that “This program is specifically prohibited from looking at the information of Canadians. This program is very much directed activities outside the country, foreign threats, in fact.”

While opposition leaders continued to press the government for answers, MacKay stood firm in their position and declared that the tactics have been in place for years and won’t be changing anytime soon.

By confirming that the CSE has monitored online data to identify individuals, it will have certainly fuelled the fires of those calling for tighter privacy laws and the government will need to show the transparency behind their moves if they want to avoid falling into the same hot water that NSA officials are having to deal with in the US at the moment.

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Written by: Andrew Roach Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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