Author Archives: gurinderbhatthal

Using data doubles & function creeps to explain police databases

When it comes to the privacy of individuals, it is a very touchy topic because people want to be able to go about their daily lives without worrying if anyone is spying or monitoring their activities. The government plays a large role when it comes to the privacy of citizens through surveillance, CCTV cameras, personal identity records etc. Many say that this is an invasion of their privacy and should be outlawed but the government responds by saying that it is essential for the safety and security of all citizens. The Toronto Star news corporation did an investigation on the police to see whether they are recording appropriate and relevant information in their Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) databases. After a lengthy analysis, they found out that in Canada, around 420,000 individuals’ names and other personal information are in police databases even though they have never been convicted of a crime in their life. Although these individuals have never been convicted of a crime, their names appear in the databases for other reasons such as mental illnesses and being charged with a crime; essentially any personal information given to the police during any sort of interaction with them remains in their system regardless of the significance of the incident. It seems unfair to record this information of a person because it attaches a label to them and judges a person’s entire character based on this information. For example, many places require a criminal record check to see if individuals have a clean background; the information in the police databases shows that they are ‘dangerous’ based on crimes that they have never been convicted for; they might not even be posed as a threat at all in fact (The Toronto Star, 2014).

The Toronto Star mentioned a lady named Diane who was wrongly accused of assault on her ex-spouse; as a result, she had great difficulty trying to keep her job as a counsellor, because of a false accusation against her, when a background check was required for her. Although it was a withdrawn assault charge, it still remained in the police database and judged her to be a person who committed crime in the past even though she had done nothing. She finally had her charge removed from the police database after many unsuccessful appeal attempts; unfortunately, many other people remain on the police databases even though they aren’t deemed a threat to society. The CPIC was initially developed to only record personal information of individuals with criminal charges or convictions but now it is being used to store personal information of anyone that interacts with the police, even if they don’t have any charges or convictions against them. Individuals with criminal charges and convictions would usually have the charges removed after a certain period of time but now it is almost impossible to have any sort of information from the CPIC removed, making it very difficult and frustrating for individuals with no criminal past. Some Criminologists say that it’s not necessary to maintain non-convicted records because it is irrelevant and the purpose of the police databases is to only record important information that deems individuals a threat based on convictions (The Toronto Star, 2014).

Haggerty and Ericson discuss the notion of data doubles and function creeps to explain why any piece of information of a person is kept in the police databases regardless of it being irrelevant. Every person has a data double which is a profile of their ‘digital footmarks’ left in electronic information. The data doubles are used by the government and other places to differentiate between categories of individuals for marketing and institutional agenda purposes. For instance, data doubles are used for monitoring individuals known to be a threat or causing civil disobedience in society. Function creeps are another surveillance technique in which it is a process where information gathering procedures are justified and approved for a particular application and are being used for purposes that were not initially designed for. Function creeps is used by the police to ‘leak’ or relay vital information about individuals in the database to places that deal with them in order to assess and evaluate their level of threat. These function creeps may cause problems because they are only designed for a single purpose in which new surveillance techniques can be found in a system that was not originally created for that specific purpose; then again they may be beneficial but it is hard to predict the uses for them in the future (Haggerty & Ericson, 2006).

According to the Toronto Star investigation, the need to record personal information in the CPIC databases is to ensure the safety and security of the public and the police themselves when dealing with individuals on the job. This information is also being recorded into databases for the purpose of data doubles so that the police can easily access it according to the categories that individuals are placed in, when assessing and responding to a situation. These data doubles indicate a reliable prediction towards the assessment and discretion that should be made by police officers towards various individuals with criminal charges and convictions; this is said to simply be in the best interests of the police and the public while looking out for their safety by taking appropriate actions. Furthermore, function creeping will permit the police to use the information in the databases for other purposes than it was originally intended for, in the future; this could be very useful and vital information to have in hand in an emergency situation and whatnot. Critics argue that the CPIC databases are a form of government surveillance and that it is an invasion of people’s privacy because individuals’ personal information is stored in the system and impossible to remove even if they haven’t even committed a crime. All of this personal information stored in databases, along with the concepts of data doubles and function creeping, could potentially mean the difference between effectively and efficiently handling a situation or letting another crime occur when it could have been prevented through these security measures.

References

Haggerty, K. D., & Ericson, R. V. (2006). The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility. In R.V. Ericson & K. D. Haggerty (Eds.), The new politics of surveillance and visibility (pp. 3–25). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Robert Cribb, Jim Rankin, & Andrew Bailey. (2014, May 25). 420,000 in police database never convicted: Analysis. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/05/24/420000_in_police_database_never_convicted_analysis.html

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The Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Marxist context

The Temporary foreign worker program (TFWP) is a federal program created by the Canadian government to allow employers to hire foreign workers who essentially come on a temporary basis. This program has been enforced for around four decades so far but there have been many issues and great controversy arising recently concerning the abuse of this program by many employers within Canada. The TFWP is only meant to hire foreign employees for job openings if a Canadian worker can`t be found to fill it; unfortunately, many employers are taking advantage of this program by bringing in foreign workers (before even looking to hire local workers) on a permanent basis rather than a temporary basis because it saves the employers a lot of money by paying the foreign workers below average wages. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) started investigating issues relating to the TFWP in April 2013. CBC reported that Canadian RBC Information technology workers were being replaced by foreign workers who were being paid a lot less. The ironic thing is that these Canadian employees who had lost their jobs were told to train the foreign workers before being found out that they were being laid off. CBC also stated that some employers were said to be bringing in temporary foreign workers to jobs to replace current workers who were collecting employment insurance benefits. Importantly, in April 2014 it was once again reported by CBC that McDonalds restaurants were employing `unskilled` foreign workers; as a result Jason Kenney, who is the Minister of Employment, announced that the TFWP had been suspended for the food services industry. Another example is of a mining company in B.C. which imported workers from China to displace the local employees. The employers even set one of the job requirements as being able to speak Mandarin Chinese, even though there is no Canadian law that states that a job in Canada requires the ability to speak a language other than English or French. (Temporary Foreign Worker Program)

The Government of Canada has recently decided to make reforms to the TFWP due to the high number of complaints towards this program regarding the abuse of the TFWP by Canadian employers and the displacement of local workers by foreign workers. The main goal of this reform in legislation is to help Canadian citizens get first priority for jobs over foreign workers. Therefore, the law states that it is against the law to hire temporary foreign workers when it could potentially put Canadians out of work as a result. “Economic Action Plan 2014 proposes to invest $11.0 million over two years and $3.5 million per year ongoing to strengthen the Labour Market Opinion process to ensure Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs” (Economic Action Plan 2014). In order to limit the number of temporary foreign workers that employers hire each year, the costs of the Labour Market Opinion process will not be subsidized by taxpayers and there will instead be a fee of $275 per temporary foreign worker application that is submitted for processing.

Some of the other newly implemented reforms to the TFWP include:

  • “Introducing a moratorium on accelerated Labour Market Opinions.
  • Requiring employers to pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage.
  • Allowing the Government to suspend, revoke or refuse to process Temporary Foreign Worker applications in order to better protect the Canadian labour market.
  • Restricting the use of non-official languages as job requirements.
  • Increasing the length and reach of advertising required by employers to ensure no Canadians are available before they can turn to foreign workers” (Economic Action Plan 2014)

When applying Marxist legal theory to the situation of the TFWP, Karl Marx would, without a doubt, disagree with this program implemented by the federal government of Canada because he is a socialist who promotes the idea of public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange in a society. Canada is a Capitalist society which is an economic system consisting of private ownership of the means of production and the distribution of goods and commodities for personal profit. This occurs through the exploitation of working class people by the Capitalists, elites or the owners of these means of production such as tools, resources and technology. Marx would go on and say that these exploitative methods are being used by Capitalists or employers because he believes workers in Capitalist societies lose control over the things they create and are deemed worthless the more they produce value from their labour (Pavlich 2011:90). The Capitalists hire working class individuals who survive off of wages in exchange for their labour power to produce goods and commodities for the Capitalists. These goods and commodities have a use value and an exchange value which is determined by the amount of labour power that is put in and invested by the workers who produce them. These workers are paid a lot less than what their labour value is actually worth. In other words, the Capitalists essentially steal money and make profit off of their employees by paying them wages that are not equivalent to their labour power value; this is known as surplus value. These workers are merely treated as instruments that produce wealth in a Capitalist society but Marx believes that this exploitation can be eliminated with the existence of a socialist or communist society where every individual puts in an equal share of labour power and are valued the same (Pavlich 2011: 93).

In real life context, there is evidence of documents showing that the Canadian government was involved in granting many Canadian firms the right to bring in foreign workers and pay them less than the prevailing wages in their respective jobs. Specifically, the Alberta Federation of Labour obtained these internal government documents through an Access to Information request where they discovered these findings. The labour group says that by sanctioning the underpayment of thousands of workers, it helped bring down the overall wages in many industries, especially the food services sector (Sanctioned by Harper government). “What was supposed to be a minor shuffling of jobs has, instead, become a raging scandal that has exposed how far the capitalist class is willing to go to undermine workers’ wages and rights — and all of it openly supported by the federal government”. In addition, “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was originally created to supposedly help fill labour shortages in Canada, especially in cases where skilled positions could not be filled by existing Canadian workers.  In reality, the program has been an opening for the bosses to further push down wages for all workers, in addition to massively exploiting foreign workers who are not subject to the same labour laws as their Canadian counterparts.. The ruling class’ dirty little secret been laid bare for all to see” (End the Temporary Foreign Worker Program).

CBC News (2014, August 15). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Sanctioned by Harper government http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/temporary-foreign-worker-program-misuse-sanctioned-by-harper-government-union-says-1.2737422

Cahis, C. (2013, April 30). Retrieved October 13, 2014, from End the Temporary Foreign Worker Program http://www.marxist.ca/labour/labour-news/874-end-the-temporary-foreign-worker-program-good-enough-to-work-good-enough-to-stay.html

Canada’s Economic Action Plan. Retrieved October 13, 2014, from Economic Action Plan 2014 http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/initiative/temporary-foreign-worker-program

Employment and Social Development Canada (2014, July 21). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Overhauling the temporary http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers//index.shtml

Wikipedia (2014, August 24). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Temporary Foreign Worker Program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporary_foreign_worker_program_in_Canada#2013

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