Whistleblowers And Personal Information Leaks – What Are Their Effects On Society And Authority?

Presenter: John Pope

April, 2018

Our City of Victoria made the international news when Christopher Wylie, who worked for AggregateIQ in Victoria,

blew the whistle on the company Cambridge Analytica that he claimed had used mined personal data from Facebook without consent to influence democracy.  He specifically mentioned the Brexit ‘Leave’ campaign in the UK, and other national and local elections that may have been affected by these tactics.

Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning have all sacrificed their freedom for a cause.  Snowden is still in asylum in Russia, but still active (and influential) on social media.  Julian Assange is still captive at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and has recently had his internet access jammed and visitors disallowed by the newly elected Ecuadorian government.  Chelsea Manning was sentenced to serve 35 years in a maximum security facility, but it was commuted by Obama.  She is now running for the US Senate in Maryland.

Here is a good summary of the recent Christopher Wylie allegations: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/world/canada/cambridge-analytica-whistleblower-canadian-liberal-party-canada-letter.html

Contrasting opinions:

Whistleblowers are patriots: “We need whistleblowers as a form of checks and balances within our society. We need to look up to these individuals, and call them patriots of our, so called, free world.”  Read more:https://thepioneeronline.com/35266/opinions/was-2017-a-year-of-whistleblowers-versus-patriotism/

Whistleblowers are traitors: “Stealing classified information to systematically undermine U.S. alliances across the world, while aiding U.S. adversaries, is practically the definition of treason.”  Read more: https://thediplomat.com/2013/12/yes-edward-snowden-is-a-traitor/

Canadian Legislation:

Here’s what the revamping of the federal whistleblower law would look like if implemented (Jun. 2017): http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/whistleblower-report-law-canada-1.4167847

Some Related Issues:

Is social media bad for democracy? https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/22/579732762/facebook-says-social-media-can-be-negative-for-democracy

There is no internet sovereignty in Canada.  Andrew Clement is a Professor Emeritus and surveillance researcher in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto says “The threats to personal privacy and democratic governance exposed in [Christopher Wylie’s] case are not an isolated phenomenon, but rather the tip of an iceberg.”  Read more: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/facebooks-data-scandal-highlights-risks-of-canadas-weak-internet-sovereignty/article38349568/ The amplification effect of technology on institutional forces:http://www.kentarotoyama.org/papers/Toyama%202011%20iConference%20-%20Technology%20as%20Amplifier.pdf


“I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public.” -Edward Snowden

“Just as we do not allow police officers to enter every home to fish around for evidence of undiscovered crimes, we must not allow spies to rummage through our every communication for indications of disfavored activities.” -Edward Snowden

“One of the best ways to achieve justice is to expose injustice.”  -Julian Assange

“I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.”  -Chelsea Manning


Is it possible to keep personal digital information private?

What should the penalty be for using somebody’s private information without permission?

Is social media news replacing cable news as the news source of choice for most people today?

Will Snowden and Assange ever be free?

Can we prevent the influence, or misuse of information technology on democracy?

Do you care if your Facebook information is made public without your consent?