Who will surveil the surveillers?

In a recent letter to their customers, Apple unveiled a request from the FBI to develop a ‘back door’ to their encryption system (security features) to assist them in the ‘one time’ gathering of information from ‘terrorists’.

There are several troubling items that come with this request (in my mind).  What are the ramifications to Apple’s security system, if ‘holes’ in the system exist, then what is stopping other predators from ‘getting in’?  What is preventing the FBI from turning this ‘one time exception’ into the norm?  Lastly, if this is developed, what prevents the FBI or another agency from surveil-ing more than just ‘terrorists’?  All of these questions beg the larger question: Who will surveil the surveillers?

The other side of the argument is that as online users, we are already being ‘tracked’ by the corporations and our information is being ‘mined’.  The general public encounters varied levels of surveillance on a daily and on-going basis by many outlets.

Surveillance has expanded with online spaces

Some (a former FBI agent being one) would argue that because we live our day to day lives encountering varied forms of surveillance, that this additional layer of surveillance should be acceptable in the name of national security.  This argument does not sit well with me, (as discussed in a previous post)  I don’t think information mining is justified- just because the ‘space’ we live our lives in has shifted to an online zone, does not mean that our information should be a free for all.  If it is unacceptable for a mail carrier to open and read through our mail, the same should be true in our online realms.

In Canada, this surveillance and information mining make look slightly different, but we are not ‘free’ from these issues.  In recent history our own governments have considered (and in some cases enacted) Bill C-30 and Bill C-51 which have alarming implications for Canadians privacy online.

by Richard Foote (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia









If you are thinking I am way out to lunch with my perspective, that is your perogative, but I challenge you to to consider what Glenn Greenwald has to say in the following Ted talk, and I question if anyone who is watching it would take advantage of his challenge.

“Equally critical is that the measure of how free a society is is not how it treats its good, obedient, compliant citizens, but how it treats its dissidents and those who resist orthodoxy. But the most important reason is that a system of mass surveillance suppresses our own freedom in all sorts of ways.” – Glenn Greenwald


3 thoughts on “Who will surveil the surveillers?

  1. You bring up a lot of interesting ideas, Amy! I love how you note the importance of treating everyone with a same amount of freedom from surveillance, no matter their actions. It reminds me of Gandhi’s quote An eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind. We should always treat people as we would like to be treated, and show everyone the same level of respect and honour attributed to Canadian citizens. It is a truly altruistic viewpoint, and one that should be shared with all students. Thank you for sharing your insight!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I’m not sure I would call it altruistic (but thank you)- I just believe strongly that if we are invading rights for the sake of
      ‘safety’, who determines who the ‘threats’ are, and what is the criteria (read: skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or the colour shirt someone wears) for deciding that someone needs to be tracked? The scary part, for me is that it’s someone in a place of power (who likely conforms to societal norms) dictating who would lose their right to privacy (if it wasn’t blatantly all of us).

      Could you imagine if the Donald Trumps of the world were deciding who was/wasn’t a ‘threat’?

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