Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Touring the digital through type

Month: November 2015

More Surveillance Powers Won’t Prevent Intelligence Failures

Newspapers B&W (5)I co-authored a comment to the editors of the Globe and Mail, “More Surveillance Powers Won’t Prevent Intelligence Failures,” in response to Christian Leuprecht’s article “Pointing fingers won’t prevent intelligence failures“. Leuprecht asserts that further intelligence sharing is critical to prevent and avoid attacks such as those in Paris, that more trust between intelligence agencies to facilitate international intelligence sharing is needed, and that more resources are needed if particular individuals subject to state suspicion are to be monitored. He also asserted that governments need the powers to act against targeted individuals, and that unnamed ‘critics’ are responsible for the weakening of intelligence agencies and, by extension, for the senseless deaths of innocents that result from agencies’ inabilities to share, monitor, and engage suspicious persons.

The co-authored comment rebuts Leuprecht’s assertions. We point that there is more intelligence collected, now, than ever before. We note that some of the attackers were already known to intelligence and security services. And we note that it was intelligence sharing, itself, that led to the targeting and torture of Maher Arar. In effect, the intelligence community is failing in spite of having the capabilities and powers that Leuprecht calls for; what is missing, if anything, is the ability to transform the intelligence collected today into something that is actionable.

The full comment, first published at the Globe and Mail, is reproduced below:

More Surveillance Powers Won’t Prevent Intelligence Failures
Re: “Pointing Fingers Won’t Prevent Intelligence Failures” (Nov 25):

The horrific attacks in Paris have led to a wave of finger-pointing – often powerfully disassociated from the realities of the failures (Pointing Fingers Won’t Prevent Intelligence Failures – Nov 25). The answer from security agencies is inevitably to request more surveillance and more capacity to intrude into citizens’ lives.

These requests are made despite the historically unprecedented access to digital information that security agencies already enjoy and repeated expansions of security powers. Clearly “more security” is not the answer to preventing all future attacks.

The intelligence failure in Paris painted a familiar picture. Many of the attackers were known to French officials, and Turkish intelligence agencies sent repeated warnings of another. Yet in their rush to blame communications technologies such as iPhone encryption and the PlayStation (claims since discredited), security agencies neglect the lack of adequate human intelligence resources and capacities needed to translate this digital knowledge into threat prevention. Also absent is attention to agency accountability – the unaddressed information-sharing problems that caused the mistaken targeting and torture of Maher Arar.

The targets of terror are not only physical, but also ideological. Introducing a laundry list of new powers in response to every incident without regard to the underlying causes will not prevent all attacks, but will leave our democracy in tatters.

Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director, BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (BCFIPA)

Tamir Israel, Staff Lawyer, Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), University of Ottawa

Monia Mazigh, National Coordinator, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG)

Christopher Parsons, Postdoctoral Fellow, Citizen Lab at Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Sukanya Pillay, Executive Director & General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)

Laura Tribe, Digital Rights Specialist, OpenMedia

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)

Photo credit: Newspapers B&W (5) by Jon S (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ayGkBN

Regarding Vidéotron’s Practices Related to its Mobile Wireless Unlimited Music Service

RedIn mid-October I co-authored a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) with Tamir Israel, a staff lawyer with the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa. Our submission was filed in support of complaints issued by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Vaxination Informatique against Vidéotron’s (a subsidiary of Québecor Media Inc.) newly introduced Unlimited Music service.

The complaints arose after Vidéotron announced Unlimited Music, a mobile platform that offers access to a curated list of music streaming services over Vidéotron’s mobile data network without imposing data fees on the customers (often termed ‘zero rating’). In our submission, we argue that offerings of this kind raise concerns of undue preference, unjust discrimination and, more broadly, net neutrality, as addressed by the CRTC Commission in Broadcasting and Telecom Decision CRTC 2015-26 and in the Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-657 (extended to mobile Internet access in Telecom Decision CRTC 2010-445). By zero rating specific services or categories thereof, Vidéotron is leveraging its role as a gateway to network content in order to provide its chosen services an advantage that no other competing service can match. Doing so disrupts the neutral ecosystem that is necessary for digital innovation to continue to flourish. It also raises serious ancillary privacy questions.

Our submission begins by arguing that Vidéotron’s mobile usage billing practices constitute an economic Internet traffic management practice and that zero rating services such as Unlimited Music are generally problematic. We then discuss the likely role of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technologies in facilitating Vidéotron’s zero rating practices. Next, we broadly argue that Vidéotron’s Unlimited Music offering is preferential and discriminatory; in addition to constituting an undue and unreasonable preference for certain service offerings, it unjustly discriminates against complementary offerings from other online vendors that include music in their broader product offering. Moreover, there is the potential for Vidéotron to discriminate against services that are mislabelled as ‘unlawful’. We conclude by discussing some of the other potential implications of Vidéotron’s Unlimited Music service.

Download our submission // See all submissions to the CRTC

Authors

Tamir Israel

Tamir is staff lawyer with the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, where he conducts research and advocacy on various digital rights-related topics, with a focus on online privacy and anonymity, net neutrality, intellectual property, intermediary liability, spam, e-commerce, and consumer protection generally.

Christopher Parsons

Dr. Christopher Parsons received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Guelph, and his Ph.D from the University of Victoria. He is currently the Managing Director of the Telecom Transparency Project and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Citizen Lab, in the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Photo credit: Red by André Hofmeister (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/iKN6oT

Beyond ATIP: New Methods for Researching State Surveillance Practices

9781894037679I’ve had a book chapter, titled “Beyond ATIP: New Methods for Researching State Surveillance,” published in Access To Information And Social Justice: Critical Research Strategies for Journalists, Scholars, and Activists. The book was edited by Jamie Brownlee and Kevin Walby and is available for purchase at a variety of brick and mortar, as well as online, book vendors. The book combines political and practical aspects of Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) research in a single volume. In addition to exposing how ATIP-related documents have led to major, nation-affecting, news stories the book helps Canadian citizens use and navigate the federal access to information processes.

My contribution argued the ATIP process must be supplemented when  investigating particularly secretive government practices. I drew from work that I conducted at the Citizen Lab as part of the Telecommunications Transparency Project, specifically focusing on activities undertaken between January-August 2014.

Full Abstract

This chapter focuses on the challenges of studying the difficult and often obscure issues of Canadian state and corporate surveillance. Researchers routinely turn to Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests to cut through this obscurity, but the laws are often too weak, too poorly enforced, or too full of deliberate loopholes and blind spots to provide comprehensive awareness about surveillance. Thus, additional methodological techniques are needed to pierce the veil of government secrecy. But what kinds of techniques can be successful, what are their limitations, and how effective are they? How can researchers better understand the kinds of surveillance programs that the federal government is conducting now, and has conducted in the past? I begin by discussing the merits and drawbacks of federal ATIP legislation, a legal tool that is routinely used to learn about the scope and dimensions of state surveillance. In light of the ATIP regime’s relative limits in revealing the contours of federal surveillance, I discuss how researchers can use a variety of political, regulatory, and legal techniques to increase government accountability and corporate transparency. Importantly, the methodological proposals I assess have the effect of adding as opposed to replacing data received under ATIP. By adopting an expanded set of methodological techniques, researchers can better fill out and make sense of the often limited revelations that emerge from the ATIP process.

Purchase the book from Amazon.ca // Pre-order from Amazon.com

Image credit: Book cover from Jamie Brownlee and Kevin Walby (Eds.). http://arpbooks.org/books/detail/access-to-information-and-social-justice