Author Archives: kirannatt

The Concepts of ‘Data Double’ and ‘Function Creep’ Applied to the Toronto Star Investigation

Recently, it has been discovered by a Toronto Star analysis, that an astounding number of individuals without any charges or convictions are listed on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) database. Many of those who are on this list have been affected in negative ways because of it. Some of these negative experiences and implications include, being denied a volunteer position within an organization because that one’s name is found to be contained within the CPIC data, an employer finding out that a person’s criminal record is not clean and choosing not to hire him/her as a measure of caution, or not being able to cross the border to the US because one has been labeled as having a , ‘mental instability’ or having made a ‘suicide attempt,’ (The Star, 2014) all of which are things that should not be getting in the way of a person trying to: travel, obtain employment, or give back to their community through volunteer work. Ontario’s privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian even went so far as to say that it ‘ruins lives’ (The Star, 2014).

The RCMP’s reasoning behind collecting and recording this information on individuals, regardless of whether or not they have been charged and/or convicted are all follows: it is done for the safety of the person themselves, the safety of the general public and for the safety of police officers, in the case that they ever come in contact with those people. Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesperson stated, ‘The information allows police services to be aware of individuals that may be a danger to themselves or others and assists police in determining appropriate responses or actions to take relative to that individual’ (The Star, 2014).

The question remains, if these individuals have not ever been charged or convicted of an offence, then why are their names contained within the CPIC data? These include people who have: had mental health issues or have threatened or attempted to commit suicide in the past. Even those who have had someone call the police to complain about them, where no charge or conviction resulted, are included (Toronto Star, 2014). Every interaction involving the police is recorded and stored.

CPIC is clearly a form of surveillance, defined by Haggerty and Ericson as, the ‘collection and analysis of information about populations in order to govern their activities’ (Haggerty & Ericson, 2006, p. 3). It is the amalgamation of different technologies of surveillance to create a master source about the many details in an individual’s life. I think Haggerty and Ericson would consider CPIC to be a form of “computerized ‘datavalence'” (as cited in Haggerty and Ericson, 2006, p. 4), in which large amounts of information are being processed and evaluated electronically in order to adhere to the idea of risk management and safety in this particular case.

The concepts of ‘function creep’ and ‘data double’ can help make sense of what appears to be a serious issue for many citizens of the public surrounding the contents of CPIC data. The term ‘function creep,’ is defined as ‘the gradual widening of the use of a technology or system beyond the purpose for which it was originally intended.” (dictionary.com) which is exactly what seems to have happened with the RCMP’s CPIC database. The online CPIC data system was originally created in 1972 for the purposes of recording the personal information of those who had either been charged or convicted of a crime. Those who had been charged would have the charge removed after 5 years, and those who had been convicted would have that information absolved after a certain period of time, depending on the nature of the case (The Star, 2008). The database was intended to be used solely for those reasons, however these original guidelines of are not being adhered to. The RCMP has slowly extended beyond this scope and has started to record data that should not have been recorded in the first place. In addition to that, information about individuals (who don’t have charges/convictions) is not being expunged after a certain amount of time. Anne, a woman who had a bad experience with CPIC data coming back to haunt her, made a powerful statement when she said, ‘The convicted are protected. But these non-conviction record releases definitely violate my constitutional rights to be heard, to defend myself against these false records (The Star, 2014).

This has caused an uproar in many individuals who are having a tough time being accepted into volunteer organizations, getting jobs and even crossing the border without issues arising in regards to their name popping up in CPIC data even though they have not committed a crime but are simply in the database for the sake of ‘surveillance,’ which Haggerty and Ericson define as, ‘the collection and analysis of information about populations in order to govern their activities’ (Haggerty & Ericson, 2006). The CPIC database helps to create what is termed as, a ‘data double,’ a compilation of information about a person from various sources which are normally separate from one another, but once pieced together, form a digital version of the self which is sent to a central location and then dispersed amongst technologies (i.e. computers) in a way that serves the purposes of an institution (Haggerty & Ericson, 2006). In the case of the CPIC database, the primary purpose is said to be that of safety. The problem with this is that an individual’s entire character is being judged and based on a piece of information stored within the database which is causing individuals to experience major inconveniences and frustrations with the system, as has been demonstrated in the results of the Toronto Star analysis.

References:
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/05/24/420000_in_police_database_never_convicted_analysis.html#
http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/crime/2008/07/19/how_cpic_works.html
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/function+creep
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.

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Marxist Legal Theory and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program

The Temporary Foreign Workers Program was developed by the Federal government of Canada to allow people coming into Canada on a temporary basis, the ability to be able to work during their time here. However, there has recently been much controversy and public outcry from Canadian citizens. Many of them argue that they are unable to obtain jobs because employers have been giving foreign workers preferential treatment during the hiring process. They have done so by choosing to employ foreigners over Canadian citizens because of the financial benefit that is gained by doing so. They argue that this had lead to an outsourcing of what should be Canadian jobs for Canadians. As a result, the Federal government of Canada has decided to make some changes to the policies of the program. The recent reforms have been implemented in order to give Canadian Citizens have the chance to be hired for new jobs as soon as they become available on the job market. This is said to be done so that opportunity is given to temporary foreign workers only after Canadian citizens have received a chance to be hired. To execute this plan, the following steps of reform were taken in 2013:
1. Introducing a moratorium on accelerated labour Market Opinions.
2. Requiring employers to pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage.
3. Allowing the Government to suspend, revoke or refuse to process Temporary Foreign Worker applications in order to better protect the Canadian labour market.
4. Restricting the use of non-official languages as job requirements.
5. Increasing the length and reach of advertising required by employers to ensure no Canadians are available before they can turn to foreign workers.

Over the span of two years, the Canadian government is planning to invest 11 million dollars over the span of two years towards this initiative. An additional 3.5 million is said to be spent each of those years to strengthen Canada’s labour market. The program is called, the “Economic Action Plan 2014”. The reforms to the program will make it so that job requirements will make it so that workers have to be able to speak either English or French. Some other changes are all follows: employers will be required to pay fees in order to process Labour Market Opinions (LMO’s), employers will be asked questions to ensure that the program is not used to support the outsourcing of Canadian jobs, and work permit fees will be raised so that taxpayers no longer have to subsidize those costs.

Karl Marx would be strongly opposed to this plan as he is a political economist who believes that in order for a Capitalist society (whether it be contemporary or feudalistic) to work and be functional, it NEEDS people who are unemployed. In his very influential theory, Marx talks about the two things that need to be in place in any society at any given time: The means of production (the tools, materials, technologies that are involved in how that particular society at that time produces) and The social relations of production (How people organize themselves to produce CLASS structure). He argues that people, in order to SURVIVE must sell their labour. The rise of capitalism completely changed the role of the workers (the subordinate class). Now it is about your investment of labour power and time, which you are paid for. What you produce in that context does not belong to you; there is a level of exploitation involved in the process that he argues is both necessary and natural. To create surplus value, Marx says exploitation has to exist. Marx does not want to suggest that the situation is extremely unfair to the workers, he is simply saying that in order for a capitalist system to work, the workers must participate. He thinks it is important and that there is a real value in paying workers enough to keep them happy and productive. They would only participate if they thought it was fair to them. Now in our contemporary economy, we cannot really talk about the economy of the society of the lower mainland because most of the stuff we use and wear was not produced here, but IS CONSUMED here. It is just that we have extended the entire production process to a global level which is really interesting because you get this incredibly split hierarchy of class where the people actually producing products do not even make enough to afford the products they produce, whereas we who are involved in a more knowledge based economy are distanced from that actual base level production. Marx would say that this is even more intensified now in our Contemporary Capitalist Society. The people who have a lot right now have more than they have ever had historically and vice versa; the level of inequality is much greater than it would be in a feudal society. Marx would point out that now economies are not necessarily driven by production but by finance. He would say that allowing temporary foreigners to work in Canada and have the same opportunity (if not more opportunity) to the jobs is only beneficial to sustain this capitalist society in which a hierarchy must exist where a very small number of people make the vast majority of money and the rest of society contributes to the economy by either being a part of the working class or the unemployed.

The following links provide some more information and detail about the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. There is also a video addressing some of the public concern and the government’s responses to it.

http://actionplan.gc.ca/en/initiative/temporary-foreign-worker-program
http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers//index.shtml

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