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article imageOp-Ed: Canada's military wants to be Orwellian Big Brother

By Ken Hanly     Jan 10, 2016 in Internet
Ottawa - Canada's military wants to monitor social media streams 24/7 on popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, but not in Canada — only from "non-democratic" states outside of Canada.
While the military wants to monitor these social media, it does not want anyone knowing that it is doing so. Kamran Bokhari, a lecturer on national security and intelligence at the University of Ottawa, sees the new Internet-monitoring platform of the military as part of a larger push by the military to enlarge its intelligence gathering capacities.
The Canadian Department of National Defence research wing, Defence Research and Development Canada, are looking for a new Internet-monitoring platform that can analyze and also filter material from social media posts. Part of a document posted on line reads: “At an operational and tactical level, social data can provide information on events as they unfold, key influencers, sentiment of local populations, and even help to geo-locate people of interest.Given the reactive and long-term nature of DND intelligence operations, access to this information is essential to maintaining situational awareness and achieving our global mandate.” As well as the most popular social media websites, the platform would monitor material from blogs, message boards, Reddit, and also comment sections on news sites. The monitoring will require as many as 40 intelligence officers. Big Brother is a great job creator. In spite of all this snooping, the Department of National Defense (DND) insists it is not directed at Canadians and it would comply with Canadian privacy laws.
The platform is said to be directed at "non-democratic states" but no hint is given as to which countries are the intended target of the monitoring. The platform will be required to monitor data in English in French, but also be able to process languages such as Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. The tender calls for analysis and filtering of historical as well as real time data. Note that the development of the platform is being outsourced to the private sector allowing for more integration between the private sector and the military and further enlarging the military-industrial complex.
The documents said: “Restrictive governments are and will continue to develop more nuanced, insidious and effective mechanisms for exploiting social media while maintaining already pervasive control over traditional media sources. Social media, and specifically Twitter, could be used to help understand populations and governments in countries of interest as a novel sensor for instability.” Naturally, the DND does not want the target governments to know what is going on. The platform should not be directly attributable to the Canadian military. Data must be stored on secure servers in Canada. As Bokhari notes, these types of programs are being mounted by all major powers: “And Canada is not alone. Pretty much any major power in the world that’s concerned about terrorism, cybercrime, cyberattacks from hostile countries, they have to be looking into this.”
Some analysts such as Christopher Parsons, a Toronto researcher, question how the DND project can minimize incidental collection about Canadians:“They might try to exclude Canada itself, but of course Canadians travel all around the world. So if you’re targeting people or monitoring social media in certain regions of the world, you can be guaranteed that there are Canadians travelling there for business or pleasure or what have you.” Given that Canada is a member of the Five Eyes, any information that Canada wants about Canadians can be obtained from one of the four other eyes who collect information on Canadians: Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY have been spying on one another's citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on surveillance of citizens.[7][8][9][10]
Global News was able to contact Captain Travis Smyth at DND who said of the program: “Social media monitoring and analysis for the purpose of defence intelligence collection may provide new and unique information of intelligence value, that can be used to corroborate, refute or substantiate existing information from other collection sources. It will also allow Canadian Forces Intelligence Command to adapt to developing social media technologies with the safety and security of Canadians in mind.” In case you think that encryption will enable you to subvert the snoopers the really Big Brothers such as NSA and the UK GCHQ are working on blocking that route.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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