It seems almost quaint now thinking back on the arguments being had about 15 years ago about the impact security cameras installed in a public venue would have on society.
Despite the limited opposition, security cameras quickly became embedded into the North American landscape, and have become the gateway into a world of constant electronic and government surveillance.
Now the concerns are about the use of government and law enforcement agencies using person’s data — including genetic markers — to track, and monitor, possibly for life.
After the 9/11 terror attacks, the public willingly abrogated its responsibility for oversight and allowed governments, including Canada’s, to pass sweeping new anti-terror laws.
These laws are only the tip of what has become an ever-growing iceberg of authorized and unauthorized invasion of citizens’ rights by governments and law enforcement agencies.
The recent revelations made by U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the electronic eavesdropping and data mining conducted by the United States and the United Kingdom should send shudders of fear into every person on the planet.
There also seems to be an unholy alliance between technological companies, such as Google and Verizon and governments to share personal data in order to track alleged terrorists.
Google’s transparency report this year reports there has seen a 70 per cent rise in government requests to the company for personal data from three years ago.
Technology companies acquire and store huge amounts of personal data that governments and law enforcement agencies are salivating over. Although governments and Google, etc., argue they are merely storing the metadata, you can infer a surprising amount of vital information from that information about individuals.
It would be naïve to believe Canada’s law enforcement agencies aren’t conducting the same type of electronic surveillance, as the Americans, British and other countries seem to be doing.
This year the Pew Research Centre revealed a disturbing trend about Americans. Even after the Snowden revelations, about 56 per cent of Americans accepted the NSA using information approved through secret courts believing that the intelligence gathering programs will prevent future terrorist attacks.
Canadians seem to have a more skeptical view. A survey conducted earlier this year by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada found that about 70 per cent believe protecting personal information will be one of the most important issues over the next decade.
And why should law enforcement agencies and governments do nothing more than pay lip service to protecting a person’s privacy? The data that is gathered on a daily basis is too valuable to be ignored.
This Orwellian world is sure to become even more troubling as new and improved technology makes our lives more transparent to government eyes. Before it is too late, the public needs to put the brakes on this technological and surveillance revolution that is quickly overtaking society’s ability to police itself, while emboldening authorities to take even more authority for themselves.