North Shore Counter-Info has received legal documents that have not yet been made public containing details about recent investigations targeting anarchists in Southern Ontario who have been engaged with Wet’suwet’en solidarity organizing in 2019 and 2020. Many of these details confirm practices of surveillance that many suspect take place, but that aren’t usually taken seriously. This includes collaboration by big tech companies, tracking devices, and long periods of active surveillance.
We encourage radicals of all stripes in Ontario to read this carefully. We are not publishing specifics to avoid disclosing the identity of the sources.
Our intention with this is not to spread fear, but rather to provide accurate information about current repressive measures so that we are all more capable of acting safely. Some preliminary thoughts for how to address these forms of surveillance will be addressed at the end.
We can confirm the following:
- The police sought and obtained a 492.1(1) warrant to track an individual’s location by attaching a tracing device to their vehicle.
- This warrant was granted within 24 hours
- This warrant would authorize the device to be in place for up to 60 days, or up to a year if it pertains to a criminal organization or terrorism (and recall that anarchists in Ontario are frequently accused of being both)
- Google complied with warrants issued by local police in Ontario, turning over gmail account metadata within three days of receiving a request.
- This includes linked accounts, recovery information, account registration information, and more
- The local police agency did not even try getting info from riseup.net addresses that also appeared in their notes
- Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Ontario log your IP address, even if they claim to not keep logs. Police successfully got warrants for these logs.
- This information became available to police within 2 weeks of requesting it
- Such information can be used to confirm information obtained from other internet companies, for instance by linking an email account to a particular internet connection
- The ISP in question only keeps records of which IP address is linked to which client for 30 days
- The ISP advised police that they would inform their client about this release of personal info, but they never did
- Some individuals involved in Wet’suwet’en solidarity organizing were under round the clock surveillance for a period of time that covers at least late February and early March
- The Mobile Surveillance Units (MSU) were made up of 5-6 cops who surveilled the the targets’ residence and followed their movements.
- They formed lists of “associates” made up of those the target was in contact with
- In some cases, cops were sent into businesses the targets had entered to retrieve surveillance footage and receipts
- All of the surveillance reports were combined with reports based on a thorough scraping of social media and forwarded to an intelligence division and the local hate crimes unit
- There is no reason to believe this surveillance was limited to what is proven by these documents. It is likely it lasted longer and covered more people.
- The police were able to obtain a warrant to search an individual’s cellphone using references to that person’s involvement in public demonstrations. The oldest reference to attendance at a demonstration dates back seven year
- We do not know if the police were able to access this phone. It was encrypted using standard Android disk encryption. In the past, they have not been able to access phones encrypted in this way (during the Locke St Affair for instance), but recently local police have spent tens of thousands of dollars buying encryption-breaking software
We aren’t experts on surveillance or counter-surveillance by any means, but we can suggest the following measures:
- In some ways, that police have to use more intensive surveillance like this is a sign that other security culture practices are working. People aren’t doxxing and snitching on themselves on social media, no one cooperates with cops, and organizing is tight.
- Avoid using services by companies like Facebook and Google, who are actively hostile to you and your organizing. At least one anarchist in Ontario is currently facing jail time because Google cooperates with police, and countless others are in similar positions in the US.
- Identifying and defeating physical surveillance is impossible to do reliably. During higher pressure periods like last winter, you can assume you are being followed except for when you actively take steps not to be. During these times, avoid taking direct routes to meet your comrades, don’t have meetings at home, and take additional measures when buying materials for actions that may be criminalized
- We don’t have much experience with tracking devices on vehicles. Now that we know for sure this is happening here, we could take more steps to avoid using vehicles tied to known radicals for actions and prep
- Consult https://earsandeyes.noblogs.org for examples of what such devices look like and how they have been used against anarchists
- For ISPs providing data, check what your ISP’s policy is for how long they keep logs and what kind of info they keep. Consider switching to a company that keeps fewer logs.
- Keeping logs of which IP addresses are associated with clients is mandatory, but the ISP in question here only stored them for 30 days since the IP is used last.
Switching routers may mediate this risk since it would cause you to use a different block of IP addresses, causing old logs to expire.We received a correction to this point. See the comments on this post.
- Be sure to encrypt your phone and try to turn it off if you are about to be arrested with it. Use secure messaging apps and settings that automatically delete your messages so that you have less exposure if captured
- All of this can be very scary, but remember the purpose of discussions about repression are to be able to act effectively in spite of it. Check out the text Confidence Courage Connection Trust for a practical guide to security culture
This text is signed by members of the North Shore collective.