Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada (Athabasca University Press)
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Many Canadians are aware that government agencies conduct mass surveillance using phone and online data. Fewer are aware of being under constant surveillance in their everyday lives. We cannot walk downtown, attend a class, pay with a credit card, hop on an airplane, or make a phone call without data being captured and processed. Where does it go? Who makes use of it? Is loss of control of our personal data the price paid for social media and electronic communications, or do we tolerate a system that makes us visible ― and thus vulnerable ― to others as never before? Experts from a seven-year multi-disciplinary research project explain how surveillance is expanding ― mostly unchecked ― into every facet of our lives, and what to do about it.
The New Transparency: Surveillance and Social Sorting ― a Major Collaborative Research Initiative funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada ― seeks to understand the factors contributing to the expansion of surveillance as a technology of governance, including its underlying principles, technological infrastructures, and institutional frameworks, and to elucidate the social consequences of surveillance for institutions and for ordinary people. Transparent Lives reflects research conducted during the first half of this seven-year project. The volume was jointly authored by eleven members of the New Transparency team: Colin J. Bennett, Andrew Clement, Arthur Cockfield, Aaron Doyle, Kevin D. Haggerty, Stephane Leman-Langlois, David Lyon, Benjamin Muller, David Murakami Wood, Laureen Snider, and Valerie Steeves.
5 The revelation was quickly followed by a number of lawsuits against AT&T, but these were effectively brought to a halt when Congress intervened by amending the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) to shield “electronic communication service providers” like AT&T from liability when they cooperate with intelligence agencies. The FISA amendments also created penalties for companies that fail to comply with a FISA order or that even disclose the existence of the orders served on them. The legislation was renewed in January 2013 and will stay in force until at least 2018.
An exceptional athlete, Kay trains every day in the hope of making Canada’s youth soccer team. Should he be selected, he will be subjected to random blood and urine tests. * Everyone makes final preparations for the trip. Since the introduction of new security measures after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Farah’s dad has become obsessed about arriving at the airport extra early. Given his profession, his Iranian heritage, and the fact that he travels frequently to the Middle East, he worries that the prescreening of passengers might inadvertently place him on a no-fly list.
Surveillance, Privacy, and the Globalization of Personal Information: International Comparisons (Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010). 7 On Public Safety Canada’s Passenger Protect program, see http://www. passengerprotect. gc. ca/home. html. 8 See the discussion of the varieties of surveillance in Charles Raab and Colin J. Bennett, The Governance of Privacy: Policy Instruments in Global Perspective (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 23–26. 9 See, for example, Michael Adler and Paul Henman, “Computerizing the Welfare State,” Information, Communication and Society 8, no.
The information is not transferred to or stored on databases. This minimizes the privacy-invasive nature of the identity check and protects the individual’s biometric identifiers from identity thieves. So we need not toss the baby out with the bathwater. But unfortunately, the bathwater is incredibly murky. The primary challenge for citizens in engaging with body surveillance devices is to appreciate the logics that underwrite them. This can include the assumption that, by its very nature, body surveillance is more reliable and thus provides greater security than alternate systems; or the claim that introducing technologies allows us to escape the more complicated politics of racial profiling; or the assumption that undergirds technologies such as AVATAR—that body surveillance is a more reliable way to detect the types of deception that are to be expected in border spaces.
There is much voluntary or self-regulatory activity that organizations can, and do, undertake. Within the private sector, it is now commonplace to assert that privacy is good business practice. The reasoning goes something like this: Businesses need customers to trust them. The appropriate management of personal information is key to gaining and maintaining trust. So when a website states, “Your privacy is important to us,” the business that owns the site is making that commitment so that its customers will see it as trustworthy.