Where to draw the line on government surveillance
You're being watched. But, of course, you already knew that.
Camera surveillance has become an accepted -- almost expected -- backdrop to modern life. We willingly give permission to Google and Facebook to make billions trading on our personal preferences and interests. And it's been common knowledge for decades that Canada participates with the United States and other English-speaking countries in monitoring global communications. Given all this, how can anyone be properly shocked by news the U.S. government is collating massive amounts of information gleaned from online sources or cellphone logs?
Nevertheless, despite the banality of ...view middle of the document...
When considered beside Echelon, Prism looks to be a difference of degree (and name-brand recognition), rather than kind.
And keep in mind that collecting and collating data about customers is a core competency of Google, Facebook et al. If we're prepared to allow these firms to use information about who we are and what we do online to sell on-screen ads, it seems entirely overwrought to worry about governments using the same information to fight terrorism. Plus, the bulk of the recent revelations involve the use of "metadata" -- vast pools of information on numbers called, duration of calls and websites visited -- used to discern patterns of behaviour. Actual intercepts of communications involving U.S. citizens still requires a warrant.
Finally, the widespread public approval for the use of camera footage in tracking down the Boston Marathon bombers (not to mention the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup rioters) surely signals the broader fact that digital surveillance has become a permanent and accepted component of modern society, particularly where major crimes are concerned.
This erosion of public and online privacy in the interest of enhanced security obviously reflects a trade-off at work. U.S. President Barack Obama was not being disingenuous when he said, in response to news of the Prism revelations: "You can't have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience." For the most part, people seem to accept this fact.
Yet this doesn't mean it's time to abandon entirely the concept of personal privacy or the notion that some aspects of life ought to be off-limits to government intrusion. So where does the line lie?
Clearly, there needs to be judicial...