Levitation: Canada has developed its own spy program to track the millions of downloads made online worldwide, according to the latest revelations from leaked documents by Edward Snowden.
The system "Levitation”Gives analysts at the Communications Security Establishment (NSA Canada) data between 10 and 15.000.000 shipments and downloads from free websites every day.
Canadian spies can access data from 102 free file upload sites, but only three file-hosting companies (Sendspace, Rapidshare and the former egaupload) report the leaked PowerPoint document, which was created in 2012.
Sendspace, meanwhile, told CBC News that "no service has the ability to search Sendspace for data." The company said it does not disclose users' identities unless there is a legal order.
The leaked documents state that the access to the data comes from a "special source", and according to the terminology used in previous Snowden docs, they probably refer to the cooperation with telecommunications providers and Internet service providers. This source is codenamed Atomic Banjo.
File-sharing web pages are used to distribute photos, videos and other documents. They are also used to distribute copyrighted content such as music and movies.
Extremists again use file-sharing services to exchange propaganda material and educational material. So, by analyzing uploading and downloading, secret services have a powerful mechanism that helps them locate unknown terrorist suspects.
But to discover the needle through the straw, spies are forced to sift huge volumes of irrelevant material, like all Glee episodes, according to leaked documents.
Of course, analysts discover about 350 interesting downloads each month, which are subject to further scrutiny, such as metadata analysis. The data collected by Levitation is matched with other databases set up by "Five Eyes" a spy alliance to link identities to IP addresses.
Levitation discovered a German video of a hostage and thus gave an insight into the strategy of a terrorist organization, according to leaked documents.
Let's say that Canada is generally considered a junior partner in the Five Eyes spy alliance, which includes the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. The country is mentioned for the first time in the records leaked by Edward Snowden, which usually refer to the actions of the NSA and GCHQ.
According to leaked documents, CSE Canada apparently shares the download data collected by Levitation with other allies (Spain, Brazil, Germany and Portugal), beyond the usual suspects. CSE allegedly created the tool to track Canadians who had taken data from its dragnet and were trying to share it with foreign secret services.
The leaked documents date back to 2012. The move of file-sharing services to encrypt their data and use HTTPS is likely to drastically reduce the effectiveness of Levitation. Unless from 2012 - until today the spy tool has evolved.