The Snowden affair reflects the realities of the cyber age. Technology has made it easier than ever for our governments to monitor our communications, eavesdrop on other governments, and store that information, all in the name of public safety. However, our reactions to what Edward Snowden did by exposing these practices are based on tradition.
These are worrying times for privacy in Canada. We've seen shocking revelations in recent months about the ways secretive Canadian government spy agencies like CSEC may be monitoring the everyday Internet usage of law-abiding Canadians -- and storing your private information in giant, unsecured databases.
Thousands of Canadians are speaking out to defend their privacy rights, after recent revelations that an ultra-secretive government agency is spying on our everyday online activities. This agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), was revealed to be systematically collecting the private information of law-abiding citizens, including Canadians, from around the world. This is real.
I have yet to come across a single interview or editorial that discusses the importance of privacy. This leads to the rather selfish claim that "I have nothing to hide" -- the implication being that anyone who champions privacy does have something to hide. What privacy allows us is a private space to conduct our affairs outside the line of sight of the other; it is a blanket on a stormy night, under which we hide ourselves. Its relationship with the storm is only incidental. If we want a society of men and women rather than a flock of livestock we must allow for them a bubble of solitude in which to conduct some of their affairs. We must not forget the value of privacy.
As this summer's PRISM revelations shattered tightly held delusions of privacy in much of the English-speaking world, sales for George Orwell's 1949 dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four skyrocketed 7000 per cent. Overzealous pundits lashing out against the rise of something as inconceivable as a Nineteen Eighty-Four-esque authoritarianism are, perhaps consciously, usurping Orwell to divert from the fact it isn't just deceitful democracies that are undermining centuries of struggle for freedom and agency -- it is our mindless culture of empty consumerism and celebrity hero worship.
Ensuring Canada has an accessible, affordable, surveillance-free, and open Internet is essential for our economy, culture, and global competitiveness. Minister James Moore has the power to take on Canada's entrenched Big Telecom giants. Here are 10 actions Minister Moore should take to leave a lasting positive legacy for Canadian Internet users.
The idea of a stranger listening to our phone calls, monitoring our Internet searches, reading our emails, trawling our social media accounts. These things are not only possible, but thanks to government fear mongering feeding our increased tolerance for supervision in a post-9/11 world, they're also entirely legal. Welcome to modern Canada.
We've learned an incredible amount about how governments scheme, conspire, collude, connive and lie, both to each other and to the people who elected them. Which is why my nomination for the next Nobel Peace Prize is WikiLeaks and its three great whistleblowers -- Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.
As more and more of our personal information circulates online, is stored in the cloud, or is moved about on USBs and other portable devices, it's essential that we make sure those data flows are secure. While governments have been quick to respond to this increased ability to conduct surveillance, they have not been so enthusiastic about creating and enforcing protections for innocent citizens.