Internet Archive looks to take digital collection to Canada

The Internet Archive is looking to replicate its database in Canada in the face of potentially increased surveillance powers under a Donald Trump presidency in the United States.

The San Francisco-based organisation said in a blog post that it is seeking donations for an “Internet Archive of Canada”, which had been set as a goal in response to the November 9 election result and the greater web restrictions that will likely follow.

“[The election result] was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long term, need to design for change,” the post says. “For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private, and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions … government surveillance is not going away; indeed, it looks like it will increase.”

Increased surveillance powers will be a priority under the Trump presidency, according to Bloomberg, with the president-elect recently appointing Jeff Sessions as attorney-general and Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA — both of whom advocated government spying under George W Bush’s stringent surveillance policy.

The surveillance laws that were overturned or amended following whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations are likely to revert back to how they were under Bush, the report added, including mass data gathering, internet activity, and email content collection.

Earlier this month, encrypted email provider ProtonMail encouraged users to switch to encrypted email following the election result.

“Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you are on, Trump’s control over the NSA is now an indisputable fact,” it said.

“As a federal agency, however, the activities of NSA are governed by federal law, in particular, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, with Republican control over both houses of Congress, President Trump would have broad power to rewrite FISA as he sees fit, or introduce a new law.”

Trevor Timm, executive director at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, warned that the US’ vast intelligence-gathering machinery will be turned over to a “maniac”.

“[Trump will] control a vast, unaccountable national security and military apparatus unparalleled in world history,” Timm said. “The nightmare that civil libertarians have warned of for years has now tragically come true: Instead of dismantling the surveillance state and war machine, the Obama administration and Democrats institutionalized it — and it will soon be in the hands of a maniac.”

Snowden had previously warned of the surveillance threat of a new leader immediately following his disclosure of National Security Agency (NSA) and Five Eyes documents in 2013.

“A new leader will be elected, they’ll flip the switch, say that because of the crisis, because of the dangers that we face in the world … some new and unpredicted threat … we need more authority, we need more power,” he said in his interview with the Guardian.

“And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it.”

Despite Internet Archive looking to back up its data in Canada, one Snowden document revealed the close collaboration between the NSA and the country’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).

The document mentioned “the exchange of liaison officers and integrees, joint projects, shared activities, and a strong desire for closer collaboration in the area of cyberdefence”, as well as Canada being a large consumer of US intelligence-gathering equipment.

Canada is also one of the Five Eyes nations, along with the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The alliance allows the sharing of citizen internet and surveillance data among members.

Internet Archive collects and stores a vast collection of webpages for public access. Its Wayback Machine saves 300 million web pages each week to ensure that “no one will ever be able to change the past just because there is no digital record of it”.

The organisation says it has only 150 staff members running one of the top 250 websites in the world, and due to its privacy policy does not collect IP addresses or accept ads that track user behaviour.

 

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