Is Personal Privacy A Thing Of The Past?

Is Personal Privacy a Thing of the Past?

Presenter: John Pope

September, 2017

Have we gone too far with public surveillance?

From “Hidden Surveillance” by Rob Wipond

The A News reporter and Nanaimo constable interwove: “amazing,” “blown away,” “overwhelming.” “This will revolutionize the way we police,” proclaimed Vancouver police in The Province.

Both media and police across North America have engaged in such trumpeting about Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR). The RCMP and BC government piloted ALPR in 2006 and have expanded it rapidly. BC now has 42 police cruisers equipped with the technology, including one with the Victoria Police Department (VicPD), one in Saanich, and two in our regional Integrated Road Safety Unit.

“…some news stories have quoted academics or civil rights advocates worried about what else this plate recognition technology is, or could be, used for. ALPR was developed by the British government in the 1990s to track movements of the Irish Republican Army. By 2007, the International Association of Police Chiefs was issuing a resolution calling for “all countries” to begin using ALPR and sharing population surveillance data for fighting gangs and terrorism. Today in the UK, ALPR is used for charging tolls, “risk profiling” travelers, and tracking or intercepting people using cars photographed near protests.”

CBC says:

“Online surveillance bill may breach privacy law, charter”

“A new bill that would require telecommunications providers to give police subscriber information without a warrant will likely be challenged in the courts if crucial changes aren’t made, critics say.”

The American Civil Liberties Association says:

“Surveillance & Privacy”

“In the wake of 9/11, mass surveillance has become one of the U.S. government’s principal strategies for protecting national security. Over the past decade, the government has asserted sweeping power to conduct dragnet collection and analysis of innocent Americans’ telephone calls and e-mails, web browsing records, financial records, credit reports, and library records. The government has also asserted expansive authority to monitor Americans’ peaceful political and religious activities.

But this government surveillance activity is not directed solely at suspected terrorists and criminals. It is directed at all of us. Increasingly, the government is engaged in warrantless surveillance that vacuums up sensitive information about innocent people. And this surveillance takes place in secret, with little or no oversight by the courts, by Congress, or by the public.

Using their power to collect massive amounts of private communications and data, agencies like the FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA) apply computer programs to draw links and make predictions about people’s behavior. Tracking people two, three, four steps removed from the original surveillance target, they build “communities of interest” and construct maps of our associations and activities.

With this sensitive data, the government can compile vast dossiers about innocent people. The data sits indefinitely in government databases, and the names of many innocent Americans end up on bloated and inaccurate watch lists that affect whether we can fly on commercial airlines, whether we can renew our passports, whether we are called aside for “secondary screening” at airports and borders, and even whether we can open bank accounts.

Dragnet surveillance undermines the right to privacy and the freedoms of speech, association, and religion.”

Additional Resources from the ACLU:

Spy Files: Today the government is spying on Americans in ways the founders of our country never could have imagined. The FBI, the intelligence agencies, the military, state and local police, private companies, and even firemen and emergency medical technicians are gathering incredible amounts of detailed information about us.

Surveillance Under the USA PATRIOT Act: Just six weeks after the September 11 attacks, a panicked Congress passed the “USA/Patriot Act,” an overnight revision of the nation’s surveillance laws that vastly expanded the government’s authority to spy on its own citizens, while simultaneously reducing checks and balances on those powers like judicial oversight, public accountability, and the ability to challenge government searches in court.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA): On July 10, 2008 President Bush signed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA). Until Congress enacted the FAA, FISA generally prohibited the government from conducting electronic surveillance without first obtaining an individualized order from the FISA court. The new law gives the court established by FISA an extremely limited role in overseeing the government’s surveillance activities.

“Public Privacy: Camera Surveillance of Public Places And The Right to Anonymity” by Christopher Slobogin says:

Government-sponsored camera surveillance of public streets and other public places is pervasive in the United Kingdom and is increasingly popular in American urban centers, especially in the wake of 9/11. Yet legal regulation of this surveillance is virtually non-existent, in part because the Supreme Court has signaled that we have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public places. This article, written for a symposium on the intersection of the Fourth Amendment and technology, contests that stance, at the same time it questions whether the traditional, “probable-cause-forever” view of Fourth Amendment protections makes sense in this technological age.

Questions to ponder:

How intrusive is our current government? Should we be concerned, or should we welcome the increased safety that we are told we receive from it?

How important is public surveillance for our security?

Why do some of us want less surveillance? Isn’t it true that ‘If you have nothing to hide, you should not be concerned about police surveillance’?

Why do some of us want more surveillance? Isn’t it true that ‘If you are not with us you are with the child pornographers.” – The Honourable Vic Toews, Canadian Minister of Public Safety ?

Is personal privacy a thing of the past?