Canada’s electronic spy agency, Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), collected data from travelers passing through a major airport, the CBC reports.
The CSEC collected information captured from unsuspecting passengers’ wireless devices by the airport’s free Wi-Fi system over two-weeks, the report says.
The revelations come from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, CBC says.
The CSEC is prohibited by law from targeting Canadians or anyone in Canada without an appropriate warrant.
Its primary mission is to collect foreign intelligence by intercepting overseas phone and internet traffic.
The CSEC, in a statement to CBC, reiterated that it is “mandated to collect foreign signals to protect Canada and Canadians.
“And in order to fulfill that key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSEC is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata.”
Metadata is the information about a communication – such as the date and location of a call or email – rather than the details of what was actually said or written.
The leaked document indicates the 2012 passenger tracking operation was a trial run of a powerful new software program being developed jointly with the National Security Agency (NSA), CBC reports.
It is now fully operational, CBC News quotes sources as saying.
Experts told the broadcaster that information captured from travelers’ devices would have enabled the agency to track them for a week or more as they showed up in other Wi-Fi “hot spots” around Canada, such as other airports, hotels or restaurants.
Such was the volume of data that CSEC could even track the travelers’ movements back to the days before they arrived at the airport, the experts say.
The document does not specify which airport was targeted or explain how CSEC was able to access the data.
Two airports – Vancouver and Toronto – and Boingo, an independent supplier of Wi-Fi services at other Canadian airports, have denied any involvement in supplying Wi-Fi information.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is currently living in Russia having fled the US in May 2013 after leaking thousands of documents that revealed extensive internet and phone surveillance by the US and other intelligence services.
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