One of the great things about the Internet is that for so many of us ‘It Just Works’. The Web has become so easy to use that few of us ever consider what happens when we send that email, access that website, or make that Skype call.

For this reason, most Canadians, understandably, have no idea where their private data travels across the Internet. Did you know, for example, that the vast majority of Canada’s Internet traffic travels through the United States, where it’s subject to NSA surveillance?

This raises profound privacy implications: When your private communications data is collected in bulk in this way, experts warn that it enables the NSA to paint a detailed picture of your personal life, including your financial status, medical conditions, sexual orientation, and political or religious beliefs.

Led by Professor Andrew Clement, a team of experts at the University of Toronto and York University have been investigating this issue, and OpenMedia is partnering with them to raise awareness and to spark debate about potential solutions.

Due to Canada’s lack of investment in domestic Internet infrastructure coupled with an absence of policy direction prioritizing privacy protection and network sovereignty, much of Canada-to-Canada traffic travels through the U.S. in what are known as ‘Boomerang Routes’.

An email sent from Vancouver to Montréal may travel via multiple U.S. cities, where it can be monitored by NSA listening points, with details sent to the NSA Data Center in Utah. This boomeranging can even happen when communicating with others in the same city.

Here’s an example of a typical ‘boomerang route’:


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OpenMedia is grateful for the support of the IXmaps team at University of Toronto and York University, who are working closely with us on this project.

This project was made possible by the financial support of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.


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