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Five Arrested at Fairy Creek Old Growth Blockade

Five Arrested at Fairy Creek Old Growth Blockade

‘Protracted stand-off’ predicted. Barred journalists ask court to rule RCMP ‘exclusionary zone’ illegal.

Five people involved with the Fairy Creek old-growth blockade in a remote region of southwestern Vancouver Island were arrested Tuesday.

The arrests are the first as RCMP enforced a court injunction against protesters who have spent nearly nine months blocking logging company Teal-Jones’ access to various stands of old-growth forest in tree farm licence 46 near Port Renfrew.

Officers read the court order to Rainforest Flying Squad protesters at the blockade’s Caycuse Camp on Tuesday morning and provided people the opportunity to leave, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Chris Manseau said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“During the course of day, several individuals refused to leave the area, resulting in the arrest of five people for breaching the injunction order,” Manseau said.

One person has already been released after being processed at the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment, and the others are expected to be released by end of day, he added.

At least two protesters had chained themselves to a gate before being removed by police, and more arrests are likely to follow, RSF said in a statement Tuesday.

The Caycuse Camp is expected to continue being the focus of enforcement since the site falls in the RCMP’s current exclusion zone, said lawyer Noah Ross, a member of the blockade’s legal support team.

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RCMP Secret Facial Recognition Tool Looked for Matches with 700,000 ‘Terrorists’

RCMP Secret Facial Recognition Tool Looked for Matches with 700,000 ‘Terrorists’

Emails expose the BC force’s previously unknown purchase, which broke rules. Critics worry about privacy, racial profiling and false positives.

RCMP units in British Columbia broke the force’s own rules when they secretly subscribed to a facial recognition service that claims to help identify terrorists, documents newly obtained by The Tyee show.

Internal emails reveal that in 2016 the RCMP became a client of U.S.-based IntelCenter, whose website boasts of a massive cache of images acquired from various sources online, including social media.

IntelCenter offers enforcement agencies the ability to match against more than 700,000 faces the company says are tied to terrorism.

Until now, military, intelligence and law enforcement customers of the firm’s facial recognition service have remained secret. The BC RCMP units are IntelCenter’s first publicly revealed clients.

To create its software, IntelCenter partnered with a facial recognition tech company named Morpho, later bought and renamed Idemia, which provided biometric services for clients including the FBI, Interpol and the Chinese government.

In documents acquired by The Tyee through access to information requests, the RCMP blanked out its total volume of searches, but the US$20,000 price paid on contracts indicates the force likely purchased thousands of searches annually.

The B.C.-based E Division told The Tyee it bought the software to test its feasibility, and only did so in B.C. The contracts came to an end in 2019, said the BC RCMP. The force’s national headquarters said that it currently has no national contracts.

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Privacy Commissioner Launches Investigation of RCMP Internet Unit

Privacy Commissioner Launches Investigation of RCMP Internet Unit

The probe comes after Tyee reports on Project Wide Awake and web spying. Here are some questions to pose to the force.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has launched an investigation into the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit and Project Wide Awake, the unit’s advanced web monitoring program using digital tools it kept secret.

The office is probing “the RCMP’s collection of the personal information of Canadians under Project Wide Awake,” deputy commissioner Brent Homan of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner confirmed in writing to NDP MP Charlie Angus.

Angus, a member of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, called for an investigation in a letter sent Nov. 23, following Tyee reports exposing Project Wide Awake and related programs at the RCMP.

“I have grave concerns about the level of secrecy and duplicity the RCMP has gone through to hide their activities into procuring and using these tools to gather information on Canadians,” said Angus in the letter.

He added, “I am very concerned that these internal documents appear to contradict how the force characterized Project Wide Awake to your office.”

The files obtained by The Tyee revealed that the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit requested “national security exceptions” which enable it to hide contracts for software it acquired. The force argued if the software was publicly procured, its capabilities might be defeated by people targeted for spying.

At the same time, the RCMP emphasized that its software only seeks “open source” information online, implying that its sources were only those in the public domain.

However, The Tyee investigation reveals that the force may consider any information it can acquire online, by any means, to be “open source.”

Documents show that the RCMP purchased a license for a program that “unlocks” hidden friends for Facebook users who have set their friends to be private. The provider of Web Investigation Search Tool, used by police around the world, discontinued its operation after a Tyee report.

The RCMP also listed “private communications” and those from “political protests” in a diagram of “darknet” sources, which it aimed to target with a “dark web crawler” and monitoring software.

The internal documents obtained by The Tyee also contained references to programs that appear related to digital surveillance but outside of Project Wide Awake, including ones named Cerebro, Sentinel and Search, and a reference to “expansion of biometrics”.

Here are some questions about the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit the privacy commissioner inquiry might seek to resolve:

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The RCMP’s X-Men Fixation Is More Sinister than Comic

The RCMP’s X-Men Fixation Is More Sinister than Comic

The force’s ‘Project Wide Awake’ name choice shows a broken police culture that harms Black and Indigenous communities.

The RCMP’s decision to name its Project Wide Awake online surveillance program after mutant trackers in the X-Men comic book series might seem like harmless fun.

But viewed against the scathing revelations of systemic racism and misogyny in police forces nationwide, it’s a troubling glimpse into police culture that unmasks the institution’s casual dehumanization of marginalized groups.

The Tyee first revealed the existence of Project Wide Awake, an operation monitoring individuals’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media activity, in 2019.

In the X-Men comic series, Project Wide Awake is a covert government program that employs mutant-hunters, or “sentinels,” to monitor, track down and exterminate human mutants — the X-Men.

In the real world, Project Wide Awake is the RCMP’s large-scale online surveillance program designed to monitor internet users and political protest activity. In the RCMP’s version, Canadian residents are the mutants being targeted by “the hunters.”

But not everyone is an equal target. Due to power dynamics and social discrimination, poor, Black and Indigenous communities are disproportionately policed and surveilled. They’re often cast as the “bad guys.”

The operation’s mutant-hunting eponym is not coincidental or even an isolated incident within the RCMP. Documents obtained by The Tyee exposed references to two projects connected to Project Wide Awake with names plucked directly from the X-Men series: Sentinel (mutant hunting robots in the comic book series) and Cerebro (a powerful device to detect mutants’ locations).

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Keying off Tyee RCMP Revelations, MP Angus Wants an Investigation

Keying off Tyee RCMP Revelations, MP Angus Wants an Investigation

Exposé on Project Wide Awake web spying adds reasons to consider changing privacy law, Angus says.

Revelations in The Tyee’s recent report on the RCMP’s social media monitoring programs are “very concerning” and deserve investigation, says NDP MP Charlie Angus, a member of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee.

Angus said the Tyee report bolstered his sense that privacy laws may need changing to restrain police in how they use digital tools to spy on citizens.

Angus said he will be calling for a probe by the federal watchdog Office of the Privacy Commissioner into issues raised by The Tyee’s reporting.

Internal documents show the force used national security exceptions to keep advanced monitoring software from the public and discussed unmasking private friends lists on Facebook.

The Tyee also found the RCMP listed “private communications” and those related to “protests” in its definition of encrypted “Darknet” sources it targets with surveillance software — some of which remain redacted in contract documents.

Training documents for members of its Project Wide Awake web-spying program include a slide saying, “You have no privacy. Get over it,” and a section headed “social media surveillance” — a description the force previously disputed applies to its activities online.

The Tyee published the report Monday based on 3,000 pages of internal documents obtained from an access to information filed a year and a half ago.

“There’s a real question about oversight with the RCMP,” said Angus in response to the article. “If they were that fast and loose with so many basic principles of jurisprudence and justice, they could go much further. And that’s what I find very concerning.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘You Have Zero Privacy’ Says an Internal RCMP Presentation. Inside the Force’s Web Spying Program

‘You Have Zero Privacy’ Says an Internal RCMP Presentation. Inside the Force’s Web Spying Program

‘Project Wide Awake’ files obtained by The Tyee show efforts to secretly buy and use powerful surveillance tools while downplaying capabilities.

A 3,000-page batch of internal communications from the RCMP obtained by The Tyee provides a window into how the force builds its capabilities to spy on internet users and works to hide its methods from the public.

The emails and documents pertain to the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operation Support unit based at the national headquarters in Ottawa and its advanced web monitoring program called Project Wide Awake.

The files include an internal RCMP presentation that contradict how the force has characterized Project Wide Awake to Canada’s privacy commissioner and The Tyee in past emails. A slide labels the program’s activities “Social Media Surveillance,” despite the RCMP having denied that description applied.

Communications show one high-level officer blasting the project before leaving the RCMP for Chinese tech firm Huawei.

Other members were jokingly dismissive of public concerns about privacy violations — a training slide for the project says: “You have zero privacy anyway, get over it.”

In seeking contract renewals and wider capabilities, the RCMP claimed its spying produced successful results, including finding online a “direct threat” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The documents reveal the RCMP:

    • Gained permission to hide sole-source contracts for Project Wide Awake from the public through a “national security exception.”
    • Discussed “tier three” covert operations involving the use of proxies — intermediary computers located elsewhere — to hide RCMP involvement with spying activities.
    • Purchased software with an aim to search “Darknet,” which it defined to include “private communications” and those from “political protests.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Security Camera Captures Heavily Armed RCMP at Wet’suwet’en Cultural Site

Security Camera Captures Heavily Armed RCMP at Wet’suwet’en Cultural Site

RCMP have no reason to carry assault weapons or even be at the newly constructed smokehouse, say spokespersons.

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RCMP officers and Coastal GasLink pipeline workers captured on trail camera despite lack of environmental assessment approvals. Photo submitted.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation are challenging RCMP actions on their territory after a security camera captured images of police with assault rifles checking an empty building located deep in the woods.

The building, a smokehouse that will soon be used to process fish, was built this spring at the request of Gidimt’en Clan Hereditary Chief Woos. It is on the Morice River about one kilometre from the Morice West Forest Service Road, not far from the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre where conflict between Wet’suwet’en members and pipeline builders began a decade ago.

The long dispute came to a head in January 2019 when heavily armed RCMP officers enforced an injunction by removing barricades and arresting 14 people opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory. Earlier this year large RCMP operations again removed barricades and arrested dozens at several camps over five days.

A trail camera installed to monitor the Gidimt’en smokehouse captured two RCMP visits this month, including images of three officers, one carrying what appears to be a semi-automatic Colt C8 assault rifle, surrounding the building.

According to Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, the officers are members of a Quick Response Team assigned to the Community-Industry Safety Office, a remote detachment established to police the Morice West Forest Service Road following the arrests in January 2019.

“The photos being circulated online relate to recent patrols and the check of a newly constructed building which is on the pipeline’s right of way and is therefore in breach of the BC Supreme Court injunction order,” the statement said. “We understand that CGL has posted a notice on the building advising of this breach.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

FOI Documents Confirm RCMP Falsely Denied Using Facial Recognition Software

FOI Documents Confirm RCMP Falsely Denied Using Facial Recognition Software

Its contract with Clearview AI started in October, but the force was still denying using the controversial technology three months later.

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RCMP denied using facial recognition to track Canadians. That wasn’t true. Illustration from Pixabay.

The RCMP denied using facial recognition software on Canadians three months after it had entered into a contract with controversial U.S. company Clearview AI, The Tyee has learned.

Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request show an RCMP employee signed a “Requisition for goods, services and construction” form to fund a one-year contract with Clearview AI that began Oct. 29.

The RCMP refused to say whether it used Clearview AI when asked by The Tyee in January 2020.

And the force went further in an emailed statement in response to questions from the CBC, denying in an emailed statement that it used any facial recognition software.

“The RCMP does not currently use facial recognition software,” it said on Jan. 17. “However, we are aware that some municipal police services in Canada are using it.”The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

In fact, the RCMP’s $5,000 contract with Clearview had begun almost three months earlier.

The FOI documents show the RCMP justified the request based on the software’s successful use by U.S. police agencies.

“Clearview is a facial recognition tool that is currently being used by the child exploitation units at the FBI and Department of Homeland Security because of it’s [sic] advanced abilities,” the employee wrote.

If the request was not approved, the form stated, “Children will continue to be abused and exploited online.”

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Despite Denials, RCMP Used Facial Recognition Program for 18 Years

“There will be no one to rescue them because the tool that could have been deployed to save them was not deemed important enough.”

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Despite Denials, RCMP Used Facial Recognition Program for 18 Years

Despite Denials, RCMP Used Facial Recognition Program for 18 Years

NDP critic calls on government to explain why RCMP falsely denied using Clearview AI technology.

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On Monday, NDP MP Charlie Angus called on the federal government to explain why the RCMP had denied using Clearview AI’s technology when several departments within the force were using it. Photo by Adrian Wyld, the Canadian Press.

Despite denials, the RCMP has been routinely using facial recognition technology since 2002, The Tyee has learned.

And the software continues to be used in British Columbia, the RCMP confirmed Monday.

Attention has been focused on the RCMP’s use of Clearview AI’scontroversial facial recognition software, which uses a database of billions of images scraped from social media. The technology allows police forces — and individuals and companies — to upload a photo and see any matching images on the web, along with links to where they appeared.

But The Tyee has learned the RCMP has been using facial recognition software for 18 years.

“The Computerized Arrest and Booking System (CABS) has been in use at the RCMP for many years,” spokesperson Catherine Fortin said in a written response to emailed questions. “Currently, it is only being used by the RCMP in B.C.”

The technology is used to store and compare faces of “charged persons” and to create photo lineups, said Fortin.

When the RCMP bought the system, the supplier said it provided “increased efficiency of surveillance and investigation activities” and “the ability to identify an individual within very large databases of images in seconds.”

The RCMP did not respond to a question about how the use of the software could be reconciled with its previous claims it was not using facial recognition technology.

In July 2019, the RCMP told The Tyee it was not using such software.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

RCMP Accused of Creating ‘Crisis of Press Freedom’ in Wet’suwet’en Raids

RCMP Accused of Creating ‘Crisis of Press Freedom’ in Wet’suwet’en Raids

Limits on reporters’ access, threats of arrest bring criticism from media, journalism groups.

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RCMP officers forced media back into confined area far from people being arrested at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, says The Tyee’s Amanda Follett Hosgood. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

The RCMP’s handling of the enforcement of an injunction in Wet’suwet’en territory has generated accusations that police unnecessarily interfered with reporters doing their jobs. 

“This is them trying to control the media and block information getting out to the public, and that’s why it’s a misuse of police power,” said Karyn Pugliese, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

“Regardless of whether or not we get it perfect every time, we just can’t have a functioning democracy without media keeping an eye on the state and reporting back to the public on what they’re seeing so the public can make critical decisions about what kind of country they want to live in.”

An RCMP spokesperson says the police did what they needed to do to ensure safety as they enforced the injunction, and B.C. Premier John Horgan says anyone who feels their rights were infringed has recourse through law enforcement and the courts.

But Ethan Cox, an editor for Ricochet Media based in Montreal, said the police actions were an attack on journalists and the public’s right to know.

“This is a situation, a flash point, a very severe crisis of press freedom that’s happening in British Columbia,” he said. “This is a crisis, and we clearly have a police force that is not respecting the rights of the media and that’s a constitutional problem. That’s not some small potatoes issue.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Each Moment Here Is a Victory’: Wet’suwet’en Supporters Aren’t Backing Down

‘Each Moment Here Is a Victory’: Wet’suwet’en Supporters Aren’t Backing Down

RCMP ‘exclusion zone’ isn’t deterring anti-pipeline activists, land defenders. A report from the scene.

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‘We’re here to make sure that people stay warm and people stay fed and just to be witnesses to whatever may happen.’ Residents of a camp supporting Wet’suwet’en land defenders in northern BC on Jan. 14. Photo by Dan Mesec.

Thirty-nine kilometres down the Morice Forest Service Road in northern British Columbia, people huddle around a fire, close enough to feel some heat but not enough to melt their boots. 

At -34 C, it’s a fine line. 

A handful of people mill around in the camp about 60 kilometres south of Smithers. They are here to support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their opposition to a pipeline slated to cross their traditional territory. The pipeline would carry fracked gas from northeast B.C. to an LNG plant on the coast in Kitimat.

Tensions have been high in the area since a Dec. 31 B.C. Supreme Court decision that granted Coastal GasLink an injunction barring land defenders from blocking access to the pipeline work sites. Some Wet’suwet’en fear the injunction could also lead to the destruction of their camps in the area.

Since the decision, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have evicted the company from their territory and the RCMP have established an “exclusion zone” in the area, limiting access.

Meanwhile, a steady supply of food and warm clothing donations has been making its way to this remote outpost. Land defenders say they will ensure supplies are delivered to additional camps located farther along the forestry road.

But today, what they are most hungry for is information. Since RCMP unexpectedly closed the road Monday, few people have made it past the police checkpoint and communication has been limited.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

RCMP Planned to Use Snipers in Assault on Wet’suwet’en Protest, Guardian Reports

RCMP Planned to Use Snipers in Assault on Wet’suwet’en Protest, Guardian Reports

Newspaper cites planning documents that called for ‘lethal overwatch’ to ensure pipeline built.

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Heavily armed RCMP officers sent to Indigenous checkpoint with instructions for ‘sterlizing the site,’ documents reveal. Photo by Michael Toledano.

The RCMP were prepared to use snipers with shoot-to-kill orders when they launched a raid to remove Indigenous protesters slowing pipeline construction in Wet’suwet’en territory, the Guardian reported today.

The exclusive report by Jaskiran Dhillon and Will Parrish reveals RCMP planning notes included arguments that “lethal overwatch is req’d,” a term for deploying snipers.

The Guardian reports RCMP commanders instructed officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” as they planned the Jan. 7 action to remove a gated checkpoint and camp about 120 kilometres southwest of Smithers.

The RCMP sent heavily armed officers in military-style fatigues to break down a gate, arrest 14 people and enforce a “temporary exclusion zone” that barred anyone aside from police from the area. The police were enforcing an injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink, the company building a pipeline to take natural gas to a planned LNG project in Kitimat.

The Guardian reports RCMP documents note arrests would be necessary for “sterilizing the site.” Plans included arresting everyone in the injunction area, including children and elders.

They also show the RCMP conducted surveillance in advance of the raid including heavily armed police patrols, drones, heat-sensing cameras and monitoring of protesters social media postings.

And the report reveals the RCMP and pipeline company officials worked closely together on strategy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Five Reasons to Care about RCMP Monitoring Your Social Media

Five Reasons to Care about RCMP Monitoring Your Social Media

Surveillance is going ahead without oversight or accountability, for one.

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Governments have taken no effective steps to protect citizens from round-the-clock, random surveillance in the internet age. Photo: Shutterstock.

You should care, even be scared, by The Tyee’s reports on the RCMP’s “Operation Wide Awake,” a secretive and unsupervised social media monitoring operation.

We’re already deep into a new era. Police — and businesses and other organizations — have the ability to track citizens in ways unimagined even a decade ago. Social media, the internet, cellphones, algorithms and analytics have given the state extraordinary power to monitor what you think and predict what you might think or do.

And governments have taken no effective steps to protect citizens from round-the-clock, random surveillance in the internet age. They have quietly surrendered our rights.

The Tyee’s Bryan Carney revealed the RCMP’s Operation Wide Awake, its expansion, and the lack of oversight to protect Canadians’ rights.

The RCMP, Carney reported, had launched a sweeping project to monitor Canadians’ internet use, especially social media. At first, the goal was to help investigators solve crimes. Then the police decided to expand the monitoring to try and assess whether people might commit crimes. 

Basic privacy considerations around the expanded program have not been completed.

Why should that scare you?

First, this is a whole new kind of surveillance. Even a decade ago, police had few options for tracking citizens. They could intercept mail or tap a phone line, if the court approved a warrant. Officers could interview neighbours or infiltrate groups they thought might be a threat. 

But between legal safeguards and the practical challenges, mass monitoring was impossible.

Operation Wide Awake shows how much that has changed. The RCMP bought social media monitoring technology from Salesforce via Carahsoft, a big U.S. corporation supplying governments with technology.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

RCMP Has Yet to Complete Privacy Assessment on Social Media Surveillance Tech

RCMP Has Yet to Complete Privacy Assessment on Social Media Surveillance Tech

Calling ‘Project Wide Awake’ a test lets police dodge assessments, says BCCLA.

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The RCMP has been monitoring Canadians’ social media use for at least a year, but has yet to file a required report on the impact on personal privacy. Photo from Pixabay.

An RCMP spokesperson said the “Project Wide Awake” program is still in the design stage — which is short of “official” implementation that requires a report on effects to personal privacy.

Micheal Vonn of the BC Civil Liberties Association isn’t surprised. She said a claim that a project is in the design stage is typical of the steps that police use to dodge public accountability checks for new technologies.

Project Wide Awake, first reported by The Tyee, is an RCMP initiative to monitor Canadians’ social media use. The initial claimed use was to respond to existing criminal investigations, but the RCMP expanded the program to use monitoring to prevent potential crimes.

The RCMP has been using social media monitoring software since at least February 2018. But the force has classified the project as in a “design phase” while it is taking steps towards officially implementing it, it stated. 

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner guidelines state that departments “must submit final PIA [privacy impact assessments] before they implement programs or services.” The measure is a safeguard to ensure privacy impacts are assessed before programs are in place. The institution must also prepare a publicly available summary of its findings on the assessments.

The RCMP told The Tyee this month that Project Wide Awake was in the design stage. But it also confirmed the software had been available to the RCMP for criminal investigative and intelligence purposes for more than a year.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

RCMP’s Social Media Surveillance Symptom of Broad Threat to Privacy, Says BCCLA

RCMP’s Social Media Surveillance Symptom of Broad Threat to Privacy, Says BCCLA

Micheal Vonn isn’t surprised by RCMP’s ‘Project Wide Awake’ — but she’s worried.

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‘For most people, to hear that the police may be collecting their social media offerings for analysis — for future crime — is pretty shocking.’ Photo from Pixabay.

It’s not surprising the RCMP is using sophisticated software to monitor the social media activities of Canadians, said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the BC Civil Liberties Association.

But it is worrying, she said.

On Monday The Tyee revealed the existence of the RCMP’s “Project Wide Awake,” which monitors the social media activities of Canadians on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. 

The program’s expansion last year with sophisticated monitoring software appears to undermine the RCMP’s 2017 claim to the federal Privacy Commissioner that the project’s surveillance was “reactive” — done to gather information after a crime was committed.

The operation is now monitoring people’s online activities to see if they might commit a crime.

“I’m not surprised, but only because I spend a lot of time in this world,” said Vonn. “For most people, to hear that the police may be collecting their social media offerings for analysis, for future crime, is pretty shocking.”

But we’ve been heading in this direction for decades, Vonn said. Intelligence-based policing — the notion that if we have more information on citizens, we’ll have more effective policing — is in many ways uncontroversial, she noted.

A segment of the population wants police to gather more information about others. “Oh good, watch those guys, we don’t like them,” said Vonn. 

But when people realize how much it could impact their own lives, they quickly become concerned, she said.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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