Category Archives: Contributor Post

Data Doubles; The Good and The Bad

During one week in today’s world of technology, someone can rack up a rather lengthy data double. Though what do I mean by this data double. A data double is where a person can be traced or even watched by what they do an online. It is like leaving an online footprint. These footprints can be taken place and left in many different forms and ways. If you were to look back and trace your steps through your week to which you have left a digital trace, you would be surprised how much of your life is now based online and who difficult it is now to disappear. A one-week ‘snapshot’ of my data double would look something like the following; daily text messages, emails and phone calls, logging into Facebook, credit, debt and gas card purchases, signing into Netflix, 8tracks and YouTube, logging onto the school computers and myKwantlen, logging onto workplace computers and using a personal passcode to enter certain areas at work, taking pictures that have time stamps attached to them, using GPS or other various navigation devices, Google searches, and entering stores or other places that have a surveillance system.

With these data doubles popping up everywhere, it is still surprising that we still manage to have or find a little bit of privacy. It seems as though that the majority of our lives are now recorded on some sort of digital format whether we want it or not. These digital trails do have some importance or can come handy when dealing with a lost person case, theft, robbery, abuse and much more. These digital trails do help and bring awareness to cases where they would normally go unnoticed, either do to because the area is unsupervised or information and incidents can be hidden through bribery and money. Through these digital trails can helpful and important to make aware of incidents such as the one that happened in August when the CEO of the catering company Centerplate Desmond Hague was seen kicking a dog in an elevator in Downtown Vancouver (taken from CTV News). The video can be seen from Global News on their YouTube page (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBU35daKYkw). It is incidents like this that we like to see our surveillance working and it is ending abuse and identifying the person who is doing it. However, lets flip the this idea as to how it is helpful to society to make people known for their crimes. How can all of these data doubles go against a person, what are they effects of being easily traced down.

With all of these trails that we are leaving behind about our lives, it is very easy to figure out where you were and perhaps were you are going. The issue with this is that since our lives are broadcasted over a digital system, it is almost impossible to hide from someone to whom you might be running away from. In order to completely disappear you would have to stop using all sorts of digital data to try to eliminate the possible threats that may come your way. These data doubles that people are leaving make it that much it easier for a unwanted person to find them, whether or not they are hiding from them or if they even know they are being watched.

However, when it comes to a person’s professional life, these data doubles can be crucial as to whether or not they will receive a job or not. The data doubles that usually pause a person’s progress in a certain career path is those found of social media pages and found surveillance tapes. What you post on your Facebook page or on YouTube could have serious repercussions for you later. As many careers paths, for instances careers within the Criminal Justice System, are now searching through peoples Facebook pages and looking at who they are connecting with, what they are doing during their social time, what they are commenting on and how they are commenting and other various reasons that could halt a person’s progress for a certain career path. These agencies are requesting new recruits or candidates to sign waivers for the agency to have the right and privilege to search for information that could ultimately remove them as a candidate as mentioned by Kevin Johnston form USA Today. Yes, one could try to erase and delete some of their traces but unfortunately these data doubles will still up digital until we have found a way to which we use a new system to retrieve information, which makes the old system almost impossible to read, an example of this is finding devices that can still read floppy disk drives.

CEO caught kicking dog in elevator resigns from his job. (2014, September 2). CTV News Vancouver. Retrieved on December 2 from http://bc.ctvnews.ca/ceo-caught-kicking-dog-in-elevator-resigns-from-his-job-1.1987003

Global News. (August 26, 2014). Elevator video shows man abusing dog. [Video file]. Retrieved December 2 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBU35daKYkw

Johnson, Kevin. (December 11, 2010). Police recruits screened for digital dirt on Facebook, etc. USA Today. Retrieved on December 2 from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/news/2010-11-12-1Afacebookcops12_ST_N.htm

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Surveillance, and Corporate Canada

Canada is a close ally to the United States. Canada often follows America’s lead, and unfortunately spying is one of those area’s Canada has followed along with America. The first of this came out with Edward Snowden, who revealed to the world that Canada had been involved in a very serious spying campaign against Brazil. Brazils mining corporations and projects were being watched closely by Canada. While this is likely a reflection of Canada spying on behalf of corporations (Ismi, 2013), there is another
factor to this. The NSA has been involved in a very elaborate campaign of surveillance on its own citizens for several years now. In fact they have been accused by Alexis Ohanion, founder of Reddit of engaging in a surveillance campaign whose main goal is
“collect everything.” This is regardless of who it is, how dangerous they are perceived to be. Canada’s NSA equivalent, the CSEC appears to be involved in a similar campaign against its citizens. For one thing, according to Ismi, the CSEC has had close relations
with the NSA for at least six decades. The two have been constantly sharing information on each other’s citizens (Ismi 2013). What Snowden has leaked is a reflection of corporate espionage, but it doesn’t end there. The Harper government has been a huge
proponent in the extraction of natural resources in Canada, and one of its major positions are with such projects as Enbridge’s pipeline for the coast of British Columbia. Recently it became public knowledge that the Harper government wished to “monitor”
protests in Canada, anywhere in Canada, regardless of what the meaning of the protests were. This made clear the Harper governments position on spying. If the CSEC was able to spy for the purposes of corporate espionage in Brazil, surely for the sake of
Enbridge and its pipeline, the CSEC would be “monitoring” not only the protests taking place regarding the pipeline, but also “monitoring” those involved in the protests. A Brazilian journalist who had contacts with Snowden says that the leaked documents
indicate that the NSA and the CSEC are engaged in “insidious hacking” of corporate, foreign, and private computer accounts (Ismi, 2013). If this is the case, Canada, which has been considered around the world as a leader in human rights and civil liberties, is in severe violation of her own citizens, and even foreign governments. The Brazilian government expressed outrage at Canada’s transgressions against its sovereignty, and its corporate interests, however Greenwald suggests that Brazil “was only the tip of the
iceberg,” meaning Canada has been engaged in this activity for a very long time now (Ismi, 2013). The claim that Canada has sacrificed a huge piece of itself to spy on its citizens in a post 9-11 world does not do this situation justice. Unfortunately, because of the Harper governments advocacy for resource development, this government has decided that the CSEC should not concentrate on domestic terror surveillance, but rather surveillance of groups protesting resource projects in Canada. The surveillance
campaign has nothing to do with protecting Canada, or national security. The whole campaign is in the interest of corporate Canada, and such incidences, like the one which occurred on parliament hill are simply a smoke screen, a way to legitimize some of its spying. Canada is not spying on her own citizens in the interests and security of our nation, rather in the interests and convenience of corporate Canada.

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Analysis of the Munk Debates

Introduction

The issue of state surveillance has been a hot topic in the past few years, and with the Munk Debate on “State Surveillance” more fuel has been added to the argument whether to support or ax the current surveillance regime. Since

Snowden, living in Russia with temporary asylum, last year leaked documents he collected while working for the NSA… The disclosures have sparked a debate over how much leeway to give the U.S. government in gathering information to protect Americans from terrorism, and have prompted numerous lawsuits. (Reuters, 2014)

Due to the debate there have been considerable differences in between individuals on whether what the government is doing is right or not. So therefore it is natural to focus on the Munk debates (munkdebates, 2014), where there are individuals arguing for pro-surveillance and con-surveillance.

Summary of Arguments

Professor Alan Dershowitz and General Michael Hayden argued for the continual support of the surveillance regime. Alan Dershowitz argues that in regards to surveillance if it was properly conducted, it would inherently protect our liberties from future infringements by the state as a reaction to another event such as 9/11 (munkdebates, 2014). Currently Professor Dershowitz claims that the surveillance technology is still a developing technology therefore to cancel it would be giving the enemy an advantage, because they do not face any constraints. However to proceed with the use of this developing technology, one must realize that it is a preventative measure, therefore there must always be an over-prediction, so the net that is cast does not miss any danger. While Dershowitz acknowledges that there are situations where civil liberties are violated, to proceed in the future with this new found method of preventative intelligence is with extreme caution and must be accountable and balanced on whether the bigger desire is to stop attacks or increase privacy.

While Professor Alan Dershowitz generally talked about the usefulness of surveillance and why there should continual support for state surveillance, General Michael Hayden took another approach. Rather than talking about surveillance generally, Hayden made reference actual programs that the NSA, claiming that some of the facts out there on NSA surveillance is blown way out of proportion and tried to anchor the crowd in reality (munkdebates, 2014). General Hayden claims that the NSA is not doing anything that it is not allowed to do, and that some of the claims presented by the other parties are on the possibilities of the NSA’s power but not on the actuality of what the NSA does. Hayden goes on to state that the arguments published against NSA on the Prison Program among many other programs, which allows them access to Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, are usually segmented and do not include the whole story. Furthermore in reality, NSA only collects .00004% of global internet traffic, which every other country does but they are the only ones singled out. In reaction to stopping 9/11 and the recent Boston Marathon Bombings, Hayden responded that it was due to the limitations of not being able to monitor Americans that they were unable to stop it with state surveillance, however NSA only uses that other major companies such as Google collects.

On the other side of the argument, is technology entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, and journalist Glenn Greenwald. Entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian focuses on the costs to economic and technological aspects associated with the continuation of the surveillance state (munkdebates, 2014). With technological industries losing up to $180 billion due to hesitation from consumers signing up because of fear of being tracked has caused significant losses to the economy. However the main argument that Ohanian forwards is the fact that the ability for NSA to set up surveillance of internet usage is through the use of a loophole or flaw. This loophole or flaw which Ohanian identified pollutes the network and threatens security. Therefore instead of exploiting the flaw, Ohanian claims that the NSA should spend efforts on increasing the security of the internet therefore other malicious individuals or groups are unable to use the same flaw to exploit the public. Moreover Ohanian states that the internet is a medium for people live and explore and that monitoring the internet disproportionately affects innocent people with no due process, therefore the question should not be whether they can but on whether they should establish a surveillance state.

Glenn Greenwald argues that the NSA has been lying to the public for a very long time, and that the officials are skilled liars. The state surveillance mantra is “collect it all, snip it all, know it all, process it all, and exploit it all” and that state surveillance actually entails indiscriminate suspicion less surveillance contrary to what General Hayden was saying (munkdebates, 2014). Stating that terrorism has less fatalities than some diseases across the world, Greenwald claims that term terrorism has been used as a pretext for many of the inhumane acts that the United States have committed. However there have been no documented cases where meta-analysis or the collection of bulk data has actually stopped terrorism. Furthermore Greenwald argues that the collection of bulk data is more pervasive to individuals than focusing the surveillance on certain aspects of their life. Therefore Greenwald is rejected the surveillance state because of what it is now, and not what it could potentially be, as well as he argues that whichever methods protected us from the Soviets during the Cold war should be sufficient to protect us from terrorists hiding in caves.

Opinion

Both sides portray a very compelling argument and there should be merits awarded to both sides. However from my personal perspective, based off of what they have said, it is not sufficient enough to formulate a solid opinion yet. Rather I would argue that from Michael Hayden’s and Glenn Greenwald’s argument, that the evidence they both have is contrast to each other. Therefore until the evidence from both sides are up for public display then is one able to fully formulate an opinion on the subject rather than base it off the words of another. However I would agree with both Alan Dershowitz and Alexis Ohanian because they both offer quite practical arguments. It seems that Alan Dershowitz believes surveillance is inevitable, therefore stuff can be done to make a bad situation better, which translates to oversight and accountability. Which I would agree is a plausible action to take if the surveillance state is inevitable in this day and age. Furthermore Alexis Ohanian claims that by allowing the flaw to exist in the network and using it as a tool for surveillance jeopardizes the security of everyone. I would have to agree with Alexis Ohanian that by allowing this flaw to exist not only are we susceptible to state surveillance but surveillance from all sorts of parties capable of exploiting the flaw. Therefore it would be vital for the government to fix the flaw, and if surveillance was absolutely necessary to pursue traditional methods such as recommended by Alan Dershowitz to go about accomplishing that task.

Works Cited

munkdebates. (2014, May 2). State Surveillance. Retrieved from MUNK Debates: http://www.munkdebates.com/debates/state-surveillance

Reuters, T. (2014, Janurary 2). Edward Snowden NSA leak: NY Times, Guardian call for clemency. Retrieved from CBC News World: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/edward-snowden-nsa-leak-ny-times-guardian-call-for-clemency-1.2481808

 

 

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The Munk Debate: State Surveillance in the 21st Century

In May of 2014, a Munk Debate took place at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto regarding state surveillance in the 21st century. Michael Hayden, a retired four star general who served as the director of the CIA, and Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard, suggested that democracies are justified in using mass state surveillance in order “to fight complex and unconventional threats” (Munkdebates, 2014). Glenn Greenwald, a journalist and columnist for First Look Media, and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of reddit, on the other hand, argued that these surveillance programs and the power they generate from information technology jeopardizes our basic freedoms (Munkdebates, 2014).

Pro:

Michael Hayden began by asking the question if there is a legitimate defense to our freedoms. He stated that the answer to this question is that it depends on facts, and “the totality of the circumstances in which we find ourselves” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2014). He continued by painting a picture of the current state of surveillance, and argued that the descriptions of state surveillance methods are unclear and hard to comprehend. Indeed, most individuals are provided with a current snapshot without any information on what happened before (how these programs developed), information which may in fact provide a different interpretation if examined carefully. As a result, one must take the time to analyze these surveillance programs and recognize the need for them. According to Hayden, surveillance systems are imperative in preserving national security.

Drawing parallels to these remarks, Alan Dershowitz suggested that surveillance, when used properly, could actually protect our civil liberties. He noted that “no state has survived without surveillance and no state deserves to survive with too much surveillance on their citizens” (CBC, 2014). Dershowitz argued that there are varying degrees of surveillance, and that there is a clear difference between street cameras and hidden microphones in your home. For these reasons, he suggested that when it comes to surveillance, matters of degree matter. Interestingly, much of Dershowitz’s statements called for a reformulation of the current state of surveillance, one that imposes constraints in order to strike the balance between the need for protective intelligence and the need for protection against privacy.

Con:

It was clear that the opposition had a number of questions regarding this last point. Alexis Ohanian argued that the right to privacy is fundamental to who we are, and that it must be balanced proportionately with security. According to Ohanian, it is the surveillance state that goes at odds with these rights – and it’s unacceptable. The country faces economical threats, technological threats, and threats surrounding security. He stated that technology backing the internet has been threatened in the name of counter terrorism, thanks to the NSA who has “[collected] information from millions of citizens” (Regan, 2014: 32). Instead of increasing security, Ohanian argued these surveillance programs only make the system less secure. He concluded that “while the internet must be defended, it must not be done at the cost of our security” (CBC, 2014).

Finally, but no less important, Glenn Greenwald argued that there would be no debate if surveillance programs were being used only to survey those who pose a national security risk. As a result, Greenwald believes that these programs have nothing to do with counter terrorism measures. It is not a “limited system of focus” like his opponents suggest. He argues that the best way to describe the NSA and its mandate is through its aggressive boasting. The new NSA collection posture, for example, states that they will “collect it all, sniff it all, know it all, process it all, [and] exploit it all” (CBC, 2014). Greenwald concludes that entire populations who are guilty of nothing are having their communications monitored for no reason whatsoever, and this surveillance is a profound violation of the rights of Americans.

Opinion:

Having initially thought that current surveillance programs were too intrusive, my thoughts began to change after reading an article by Johnny Yoo in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, which examined the legality of NSA surveillance of phone metadata (call billing records) and electronic communications data (email interception). Notably, Yoo states that while critics suggest that NSA surveillance “is too broad because ninety-nine percent of calls are unconnected to terrorism” (2014: 908), it is justified because finding a ‘needle in a haystack’ requires searching “millions of potentially innocent connections, communications, and links” (2014: 908). In rebuttal to this point, Greenwald and Ohanion would likely respond by arguing that Yoo is using terrorism as a pretext to justify the surveillance of millions of citizens, and that the collection of this information is not “relevant to a terrorism investigation” (Yoo, 2014: 911). However, as evident from the article, FISC (The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) rejects these kinds of arguments because the NSA database has to be broad enough to intercept terrorist calls. Additionally, while Greenwald and Ohanion suggest that terrorism is just a pretext, we cannot deny that terrorism is prominent in the 21st century and poses a threat to national security.

In terms of violating constitutional privacy rights, the NSA programs need to be examined further. Yoo argues that the collection of phone metadata has the least number of difficulties regarding privacy. This is because a number of court cases have affirmed that “calling information, such as the phone number dialed, [is] beyond Fourth Amendment protection because the consumer [has] voluntarily turned over the information to a third party for connection and billing purposes” (Yoo, 2014: 916). Moreover, we must note that Fourth Amendment protection applies only to the content of communication, which the NSA is prohibited from accessing. Yoo also states that the second NSA program, which collects electronic communication data, is limited to the interception of non-US persons communicating outside of the United States (evident by s.702 of FISA), and the Fourth Amendment does not apply to these individuals.

While I would like to have a concrete opinion on the matter, I believe that a more thorough investigation of the programs is necessary. This post only touches the tip of an iceberg in a sea of state surveillance literature. As evident by Yoo’s article, the NSA programs seem relatively harmless on paper. What I would ask is whether or not the NSA is abusing their power and screening the content of the data in question. Additionally, in terms of the surveillance of email accounts, the NSA claims that they are solely monitoring the communication between non-US citizens communicating outside of the country – but is this true? Indeed, all of the speakers at the Munk Debate had a number of facts to back up their claims, but I would like to authenticate these facts before commenting further.

Note: I found it particularly interesting that General Michael Hayden made a statement in his closing remarks regarding Glenn Greenwald’s facts, and that if they were true, he would vote against the motion too.

Sources Cited

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (2014). State Surveillance: The Munk Debate. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2014/05/08/state-surveillance-the-munk-debate/

Munkdebates. (2014). State Surveillance. Retrieved from https://www.munkdebates.com/debates/state-surveillance

Regan, L. (2014). Electronic Communications Surveillance. Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine, 66(3), 32-42.

Yoo, J. (2014). The Legality Of The National Security Agency’s Bulk Data Surveillance Programs. Harvard Journal Of Law & Public Policy, 37(3), 901-930.

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Surveillance implications: Data doubles and Function creep

In spite of never having been convicted of any criminal law in Canada, a significant portion of the Canadian population have been or are currently listed in the country’s national criminal records. The RCMP’s Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) holds the name of over 400,000 individuals who have never been found guilty of a crime (Carlson, 2014). Such information is available as non-conviction records, which are routinely released in police background checks at the requests of interested parties. These parties can include potential employers, educational institutions, governmental agencies, volunteer organizations, border security and others who have a vested interest in specific individuals.

In the case of Diane, whose identity is being withheld for her protection, she was arrested based on the accusations form her former boyfriend. The charges were later dropped, but still continue to pose a threat to her professional life, as the traumatic incident still holds a place on her police record. Many similar situations are a reality to hundreds of Canadians in situations similar to Diane. Ultimately, those individuals have the potential to be negatively impacted or face unfavorable consequences and ramifications, which impacts both their personal and professional lives. The victims of these police disclosures and background checks have argued that this practice is in violation of constitutional rights laid forth by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, there are “no rules, no legislation” against this procedure despite many professionals and experts calling for a transformation in legislation to bring clarity and guidance to the issue (Carlson, 2014). It has also been argued that CPIC should be exclusively used as a database for identifying an individual’s history of criminal behaviors, thus requiring a conviction. Instead, police submit data, which are indicators of character, and make a presumption that the individual is either a threat to them self or the general public.

In cases comparable to Diane, Rick Perreault was denied a volunteer position for the Children’s Aid Society due to a false report involving disciplining his son by “lightly tapping” the boy on the knee. After explaining the incident to police officers, they decided not to criminally pursue the situation. Similarly, Anne had left to a woman’s shelter in an attempt to leave her abusive husband, who was charged and convicted of domestic abuse. Her husband, then falsely accused Anne of threatening him, which the claim was determined to be unfounded (Carlson, 2014).

The concepts of data doubles and function creeps make sense of the findings of the investigation by the Toronto Star. Due to this surveillance of the non-conviction record, Diane’s incident with the police “stabilized and captured according to pre-established classificatory criteria” (Haggerty & Ericson, 2006). She became labeled by her past assault charge, despite being proven innocent and not convicted, ultimately leading to adverse effect on her professional life when her job was at risk.

With regards to the concept of a function creep, Carlson adds that a RCMP representative stated that “national Canadian criminal database includes information on charges, warrants, persons of interest, stolen property, vehicles, criminal records as well as critical public and officer safety information” (Carlson, 2014). Function creeps are legislation, which are justified for a specific purpose, but the legal restrictions are loosened, and new uses for that legislation, which were not originally planned, or even existing are found. This concept of function creeps operates opportunistically and is likely to be unanticipated, while often being difficult to convey to the public. Using the definition put forth by the spokesperson for the RCMP, it is apparent that by “disclosing [information] to prospective employers, governments or volunteer organizations undermines the lives of law-abiding Canadians”(Carlson, 2014) the national criminal database is being applied out of is original mandate, thus circulating significant debates throughout societies with the issue of privacy.

References:

Carlson, J. (2014). 420,000 in police database never convicted: Analysis. Toronto Star.

Haggerty, K. D., & Ericson, R. V. (2006). The new politics of surveillance and visibility. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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Data Doubles and Function Creep Within Police Databases

It has recently come to the attention of the Toronto Star that hundreds of thousand of people are listed within the RCMP’s Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) despite having no convictions or charges. Many of these people are people who have mental health issues. As of currently there is not legislation around the situation which leaves police to do as they please. Ann Cavoukin (Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner), states that new legislation is needed which directs the police on what information they are able to give to employers, volunteer organizations and governments. People who have not even committed a criminal offence are listed within CPIC and it affects their lives negatively.

People like Diane, has had her life affected negatively due to the CPIC. Regarding an incident where her spouse committed self-harm and falsely reported to the police that Diane attacked him, she was arrested and charged. After this incident, 11 months later the charges were withdrawn but Diane’s name remained in CPIC. Diane ran into problems with this when her workplace required a “vulnerable sector police check.” Of course within this check the incident that had taken place even though the charges were withdrawn had come up. Diane eventually removed the charge within CPIC only after multiple appeals. CPIC should be used for containing criminal records only of those charged and convicted in order to keep track of people with an actual criminal record. Police may argue that it is used for safety of the person, community and just to keep track of the individual. But due to the fact that people’s lives are being affected by this negatively, the names of those not charged should not remain stored.

The terms “data double and “function creep” help us make sense of the results of the Toronto Star investigation. These terms, discussed by Ericson and Haggerty are as follows: data double is defined as “our vital/informational profiles that circulate in various computers and contexts of practical application.” 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.” This term applies directly, the police are using CPIC, beyond what it is supposed to do. It is just supposed to carry the names of people who have a criminal record, but instead the police are using it to carry the names of hundreds of thousands of Canadians, who have not even been charged or convicted. Yet these names remain within CPIC, and are affecting lives when this should not be happening within the first place. New legislation is indeed needed in order to protect Canadians from harm which is caused by CPIC.

 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.

Carlson, J. (2014, May 24). 420,000 in police database never convicted: Analysis. 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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If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

We truly do live under a constant state of surveillance. In this day and age, it is impossible to make it more than a few blocks without being caught on multiple Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras. As an active Security Guard and Dispatcher, I have experience many sides of the surveillance world in Vancouver’s Downtown core. However, how much surveillance is too much surveillance? Where do we draw the line between security and privacy?

The job of a security guard is typically described as “observe and report,” and essentially, that is all there really is to the job. Security contract sites can house hundreds of cameras operational at the fingertips of one or multiple security professionals. These cameras trend from a simple, low resolution, black and white, non-moveable camera through to cameras with 360° viewing with a resolution capable of zooming in and reading a newspaper from over a football field’s distance away. With all this in mind, the general public does tend to make outrageous assumptions about possible invasions of privacy when details such as this are made public. Truth is however, technology, as good as it is, has its faults. For example, cameras with such an impeccable zoom capability, such as the camera described above, are usually placed in locations that may utilize such capabilities. These locations would include large open spaces with major foot traffic. Usually, cameras covering such large spaces are zoomed out as far as possible in order to capture the largest possible view of the space in question. Unless an individual arouses significant suspicion or is in the process of carrying out a crime that security has caught on to, these cameras are never utilized to their full capabilities. Once a recording has been captured, its picture quality is stagnant resulting in poor quality if a zoom is required on the recording. All in all, however obvious something may seem to us despite its poor quality after zooming, such video would never be accepted to stand up in court. Additionally, if a camera is zoomed out to cover a significant expanse of an area, unless the incident occurs directly in front of the camera, the recorded objects in question will also be too small and far less to detailed to be considered sufficient evidence within a court of law. In conclusion of camera quality, there is a significant tendency for people to forget just how reliable these resources are. When push comes to shove in the conviction of an individual, camera footage as evidence is more than likely to fail its ultimate test. Thus, making such “amazing” camera equipment only suitable for security-like “observe and report” cases, and not as legitimate evidence to be held up in court. Keep in mind however; it all comes down to the interpretations of a judge and jury.

Now that this myth has been somewhat quashed, we can visit the question: how much surveillance is too much surveillance? Coming from relevant security experience, I can safely say it is not a stretch of the imagination to say that an individual minding his own business, walking along a downtown street, can be watched carefully from one corner of a site to another with an expanse of several city blocks. Now imagine how many security sites exist throughout an entire city like Vancouver. What would happen to our view of privacy if one source, like the police, had direct access to live feeds and/or the recordings from all these sites combined? State of Surveillance (2014) thinks this type of environment could be just around the corner stating that police may eventually be able to track our moves, all day, everyday, without any warrants necessary. Would you consider this an invasion or your privacy or a form of spying? Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:

Section 8

            Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure

Evidence in relation to Section 8 may be in violation of our basic rights assuming that such surveillance from a localized source constituted an unreasonable search. Additionally, the Privacy Act provides us with “a right of access to information held about [us] by the federal government…” This could be used in the argument that such mass surveillance may have to be accessible to the public if it involves them. All in all, how secure is the storage of such surveillance? And who is going to be capable of seeing it?

In conclusion, such mass surveillance may help in lowering crime and convicting offenders. However, the unreliability of the quality of cameras cannot be overstated. With this in mind, the institution of a mass surveillance source to be used by the state/police could result in more cases being overturned due to Charter violations of unreasonable searches. Is such mass surveillance worth the possible risks and rewards in Canadian law? I guess if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.

 

State of Surveillance: Police, Privacy and Technology

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