Is Canada a surveillance society?
Certainly we’re living in a surveillance society. There’s the surveillance of street cameras as we walk to work, the loyalty cards as we buy our coffee. We may be tracked in and out of our office. Exceptionally, employers can do surveillance on their employees. Your kids may be under surveillance cameras at many day cares. In hospitals, there’s increasing use of surveillance of patients. So we are in a surveillance society. The issue is not, are we in it or not. It’s how well do we control it and how well do we make sure there are very, very stringent rules about who gets what information for what purposes.
Are we controlling it adequately?
Canada has done better than other places. We have avoided the massive data breaches of citizen information as far as we know that we’ve seen in the UK. France was compiling a major database of all elected officials and people in public life, including their sexual habits, their religious and political affiliations. This is non-existent in Canada and would be totally unacceptable. So on that scale we’re doing fairly well. However, we’re lagging behind on a lot of security issues. No matter how well-meaning you are, if your technology is not secure, the confidentiality of the personal information will be lost. The trafficking in personal information is now an underground economy that some have said is now as lucrative, or more lucrative, than the drug trade. On that scale, we haven’t moved. […]
People often say that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from surveillance. What do you think?
People aren’t looking at the many faces of privacy. If you say it doesn’t bother me because I have nothing to hide, you forget that at some point, in some other context, you may have something to hide. Perhaps we wouldn’t want the government or an employer to know that we have an inherited tendency to some genetic disorder. I encourage people to think not just about how one surveillance initiative affects them personally, but how it affects the whole way our society is operating.
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