CANADALAND article gets results: Use of Encryption on the rise

My recent CANADALAND article, Which Reporters Don’t Bother To Encrypt Email?, has helped spark a significant increase in the number of Canadian journalists using encryption.

At least 31 new Canadian journalists have started using email encryption since the article was published. This is almost doubles the number of Canadian journalists who have begun using encryption since the Snowden leaks first began.

I am also working with Hacks/Hackers to put on a series of upcoming “Security Boot Camps” to help train journalists on encryption and other security tools.

The first one is taking place in Vancouver tomorrow. And the following Tuesday a speaking event will be taking place in Toronto, which will be followed by a hands-on training. Then in early June, I will be leading a workshop on this topic at the CAJ conference taking place in Halifax. Events in other cities are also being planned.

Although work on getting journalists to use these tools was already underway, this graph shows a major spike took place after my CANADALAND article was published:

CDNLNDgetsResults01

(The above graph measures Canadian journalists who are known to be using the PGP email encryption based on research on the MIT Public Key Server.)

A directory of journalists using PGP can be found here. Attentive readers may notice that the numbers in the CANADALAND article and the graph do not match exactly, this because freelancers were not included in the stats listed in the article.Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 6.41.54 PM

I was invited to present the workshop that is taking place at the CAJ conference in Halifax, so long as I cover the costs of my travel and accommodation myself. I have started a crowd funding campaign to cover the roughly $500 flight. If you are able to contribute I greatly appreciate it.

In addition to the three “Security Boot Camps” that are mentioned above, I am hoping that events will be organized in other cities, and that journalism schools will start providing an introduction to security tools to their students. If you are interested in making that happen, and think I could be of any assistance to you, please get in touch.

Email: tim.m.groves <@> gmail com

PGP key: 0x1741F4E9AF971BCB

Fingerprint: 0E5E 34CD 37A2 4E8A F9DD 6598 1741 F4E9 AF97 1BCB

Twitter @TimMGroves

Grassroots groups answer challenge to train journalists how to protect their sources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      —     April, 30, 2015

Toronto, ON. Vancouver, BC. Halifax, NS. — Volunteer organizers across Canada announced today their commitment to help Canadian journalists get upScreen Shot 2015-05-02 at 6.41.54 PM-to-speed with basic online security practices. “Security bootcamps” for reporters will be held in Vancouver and Toronto in May. Hacks/Hackers is also presenting sessions on security for journalists to be held during the Canadian Association of Journalists annual conference in Halifax, June 5 – 7.

A recent investigation by the online news site Canadaland found that only 37 journalists in the country have publicly begun using encryption since the first Edward Snowden NSA stories in June 2013. Encryption is an essential part of protecting sources, and Canadian reporters are underprepared.

Organizers of the group Hacks/Hackers — a volunteer-run network dedicated to bringing journalists and technologists together — recently embarked on a plan to hold a series of nationwide events to bring security and privacy to the attention of reporters, and to provide no-cost opportunities for much-needed training.

Events have been announced for Vancouver (May 12), Toronto (May 19), and Halifax (June 5-7). Planning is also underway for an event in Montreal. The event details are as follows:

Vancouver

Security “Boot Camp” for Journalists, presented by Hacks/Hackers Vancouver
Registration page
May 12, 2015, 6-8PM
The Hive, #210 – 128 West Hastings, Vancouver, BC
More info: (647) 361-8248

Toronto

Security “Boot Camp” for Journalists, presented by Hacks/Hackers Toronto
Registration page
May 19, 2015, 7-11PM
Mozilla, 366 Adelaide St W (5th floor)
Toronto, ON

Halifax

Security for journalists sessions, CAJ conference, presented by Hacks/Hackers
Registration page
June 5-7, 2015
See conference schedule for times.
The Atlantica Hotel, Halifax

This is the first national effort in Canada to address the complicated topic of modern-day security specifically for professional reporters. The effort will be aimed at newsrooms both large and small, and will provide an opportunity for those working in smaller news organizations to access essential training that might not otherwise be available.

About Hacks/Hackers

Hacks/Hackers is a rapidly expanding international grassroots journalism organization with more than 60 chapters and thousands of members across four continents.

Tax Dodge Screening, and other films…

The Great Canadian Tax Dodge, a film I did research for is being screened this Friday in Toronto at 7:30. The event is being organized by the Danforth chapter of Cinema Politica. The director of the film, Robin Benger, and other speakers will be present for the film.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.29.33 AMIt is sure to be a great event, but if you can’t make it out, you can watch the doc online.

The film was the subject of a blog post I wrote earlier this year that includes links to a variety of links to other reporting on tax evasion and off-shore banking.

Here are the details on the film:
The Great Canadian Tax Dodge
Fri. April 24, 7:30 pm
Eastminister Church, 310 Danforth Ave. (at Jackman, near Chester subway station) 
It is estimated that between 100 and 170 billion dollars leaves Canada every year, untaxed. Much of it is siphoned off to Canadian-made offshore tax havens. This film documents the birth of the Canadian Tax Fairness movement and examines the issue of tax avoidance, exposing the sophisticated corporate strategies and tax loopholes commonly used to legally avoid tax.
Speakers: Robin Benger, director of the film; Dennis Howlett, director of Canadians for Tax Fairness; Kelly Bowden, Communications Coordinator, Oxfam Canada
While on the subject of Cinema Politica Screenings, they are co-presenting a film at HotDocs, ON THE BRIDE’S SIDE which will be shown April 28, 30, and May 2nd.
And CinemaPolitica and have a PWYC screening of a couple docs at the Bloor Cinema on June 2nd, TIL THE COWS COME HOME and PREEMPTING DISSENT
These are all sure to be great films to watch!

C-51 sparks KI First Nation to request spy records

An article I worked on a few years ago is back in the news, as it was recently highlighted by a First Nation Chief concerned about surveillance of his community.

In 2011, I  had front page article in the Toronto Star titled “Mounties spied on native protest groups” The article exposed the existence of a special RCMP unit dedicated to monitoring the First Nation potentially ki-logoinvolved in protest activity.

Due to the measure included in Bill C-51 many First Nations groups are concerned that spying on their communities is set to increase.  Last week the Chief of  Kitchenuhmayooosib Inninuwug, Donny Morris, attended to Toronto to speak out against Bill C-51 and to announce their community was filling an ATIP request to get more information on the surveillance of their community. They highlighted the article I had written and one of the reasons for their concern.

Here are some links to coverage of Chief Morris visit:

TORONTO – Today, the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug [KI] First Nation is filing a request for access to all spying records kept on their community by the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and calling on all First Nations in Canada to flood the RCMP and CSIS with access to information requests and make the information public.

I call on Harper and his spooks to come clean today and stop spying on our people,” said Chief Donny Morris.  Security laws are already being abused to spy on our people and to jail our leaders when we stand up to protect our homeland.  Bill C51 threatens to dramatically expand spying on First Nations and to criminalize our assertions of sovereignty and rights on our own land.

Previous access to information requests have revealed that the RCMP created a wide-ranging surveillance network in early 2007 to monitor protests by First Nations, including KI, and shared the intelligence gathered with private extractive industries.

WATCH THIS DOCUMENTARY: The Great Canadian Tax Dodge

The Great Canadian Tax Dodge, is an amazing documentary on how large corporations and the wealthy in Canada avoid paying tax, it airs for the first time tomorrow on TVO. I was a researcher for the film, but when I watched it for the first time last night and I found it eye opening.

[[UPDATE: You can now watch this video online at http://tvo.org/video/210168/great-canadian-tax-dodge

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 9.54.15 AMIf you own a TV I highly recommend you tune in to TVO at 9pm on Wednesday February 4th. You can check out the trailer here. [I will update this post when the full doc becomes available online].

Another great investigation into tax dodging in Canada is this shorter 16 minute documentary that Bruce Livesey produced for Global’s Investigative Program 16×9:

If you want to hear Bruce talk about this subject in person, he is giving a talk at the Toronto Reference Library next week, on Tuesday Feb 10th from 1pm to 3 pm.

And if you want to learn even more about how Canadians are involved in hiding their money offshore, Harvey Cashore, Zach Dubinsky and bunch of great journalist other journalists at the CBC teamed up with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to report on a massive leak of files from ten different tax offshore tax havens in 2013. This interactive is a great place to start looking at their reporting, but they produced several stories from this data.

MScreen Shot 2015-02-03 at 9.31.48 AMore recently the same team has reported on how a federal government pension board used complicated tax schemes to avoid paying tax.

Although CBC was given broad access to the information leaked to the ICIJ, a database containing a more limited amount of information was published online for anyone to use. This allowed organizations like the Toronto Media Co-op to cover the how people in Toronto were hiding their money off shore. Although spearheaded by Gwalgen Geordie Dent, I also played a hand in this reporting, including making the logo for their reporting.

Tax law, and the reporting that covers it can be dry, but this topic is tremendously important, and the reporting that shines a light upon it, is a powerful example of why we need strong investigative reporting in the country and around the world.

Telephone Breadcrumbs: Google lets you look at (some of) your metadata

A Google employee recently demonstrated on his blog just how revealing data collected by our telephones can be.  The digital information about our activities that is generated by our telephones and other electronic devices is known as “metadata,” and has been the subject of much debate since Edward Snowden released a trove of NSA documents.Metadata

One of Daniel Russell’s roles at Google is showing the public just how powerful the research tools provided by Google really are. Every week he posts research challenges on his personal blog, SearchResearch, and then demonstrates how he would tackle the challenges.

Last month, he asked his readers “what can you deduce” from a file that he uploaded to the blog. The file contained GPS information, one of the many sorts of metadata generated by our telephones. In effect it recorded Russell’s location every few minutes over a one-week period, so long as his phone was turned on.

The same sort of data is being collected on everyone who has a phone with GPS enabled. If your phone runs on android and you want to look at where you went in the last week, or download the information all you need to do is visit: https://maps.google.com/locationhistory. (iphone and ipad can also click the link, because under some circumstances Google is collecting this data on them).

In the comment section of the blog readers commented on what they had learned, including where Russell had traveled, where he lived, the hotels he stayed at, and what coffee shop he frequented in the mornings.

However in a series of follow up posts Russell showed much more could be learned from the file. For example, he showed how you could measure the speed travelled between any of the two times recorded in the file. With this speed you can determine when was travelling by car, walking or riding a bicycle.

Using freely available tools online tools, a tremendous amount of insights can be gathered on someone’s life based on their GPS coordinates. Yet, this pales in comparison to the sort of analysis that can be carried out by law enforcement and spy agencies that are in the business of collecting this sort of data.

Many of the analysis tools used by spy agencies are shrouded in secrecy, but due to the documents released to the media by Snowden some details have emerged. The Washington Post reported on and NSA program called CO-TRAVELER, in which they track not only the metadata from a targets telephone, but also “incidentally” gather information from the telephones of everyone else who is in the same vicinity. Through state-of-the-art analytic techniques they use this data to determine who the target is meeting or travelling with.

Defenders of spy agencies have argued that the bulk collection of metadata is not intrusive to someone’s privacy in the way that eavesdropping on a phone call is. But critics have contended that analyzing someone’s metadata can reveal even more about their activities than the actual contents of a phone call.

Here in Canada, metadata made headline when the CBC reported that the Communication Security Establishment (CSE), the Canadian agency with close ties to the NSA, was gathering metadata on travellers at a Canadian airport.  The retired judge who oversees CSE’s compliance with the law, determined there was nothing wrong with this collection, despite noting that “the law prohibits CSE from directing its activities at Canadians”.

There are some noteworthy arguments that the media misunderstood the use of airport travellers metadata, but CSE collect a much vaster amount of metadata than what was used in that program. In fact CSE sees collecting metadata as crucial to fulfilling its mandate.

The BC Civil Liberties Association is currently suing the CSE due to it “sweeping collection of metadata information produced by Canadians.”  Geo-location information is included in their suit.

But the government defends its use of metadata noting, “Metadata is not a communication that conveys or attempts to convey meaning, but rather information of a technical nature.”

It is not just spy agencies who are collecting metadata, police make use this information, and can acquire it through a warrant, or by having it voluntarily provided to them. However the corporations who collect information on their customers can also put it to use in order to gain insights on their lives.

In November, the Silicon Valley corporation Uber, disciplined one of its own executives following accusations that he tracked the whereabouts of a journalist who was critically reporting on the company. The company had developed a tool called “God View” that facilitated this sort of snooping.=

I have been well aware of the degree to which metadata can reveal immense amounts of information about our lives, but I had never analyzed metadata myself. Reading Russell’s blog posts I got a hands-on sense of what doing that sort of analysis is like, the sort of false signals that appear, and more concretely how you would use that data to understand someone’s life in an intimate way.

If you want to increase your skills as a researcher, I highly recommend Russell’s blog: Search Research. I don’t always have the time to tackle the challenges, but I always get a lot from reading it.