What is surveillance?
Professor David Lyon defines surveillance as “the focused, systematic and routine attention to personal details for purposes of influence, management, protection or direction” (Surveillance Studies: An Overview. Oxford: Polity Press, 2007, p. 14). Surveillance can be for our benefit, such as when a lifeguard watches a pool full of swimmers, or it can be for security purposes, such as when a store uses a camera to keep an eye on shoppers. It can also be to collect information about us to influence our behaviour — this happens a lot when we browse online. When we think about surveillance, we shouldn’t assume it is a bad thing, but it is very important to think about why it is being done, who is doing it, and whether we feel that the reason for the surveillance fits with the values we have as a democratic society.
Government surveillance is particularly important to learn about because of the power governments and their law enforcement and public safety agencies have over people within a country: they can deny services, arrest individuals and put them in jail, or even, in very extreme circumstances, deport non-citizens out of Canada.
There are advantages and disadvantages of surveillance cameras such as solving unsolved crimes that have been caught on camera. The disadvantages consist of loss of privacy and being monitored at all times.”
— Mass Surveillance —
Sometimes surveillance isn’t targeted. We call this “mass surveillance” or “bulk interception.” Privacy International defines it like this:
Mass surveillance is the subjection of a population or significant component of a group to indiscriminate monitoring. It involves a systematic interference with people’s right to privacy. Any system that generates and collects data on individuals without attempting to limit the dataset to well-defined targeted individuals is a form of mass surveillance.
A major problem with mass surveillance is that it happens in secret with no way for people to understand how their information is going to be used, if it is going to be used, or who is going to possibly use it. Mass surveillance is usually conducted by states.
— National Security Surveillance —
When we think about surveillance, we often think about national security agencies that have the difficult job of protecting the country. There can be conflicts between national security goals and people’s privacy rights; it is important to talk about those conflicts and make decisions about where we draw the lines, because we need both security and privacy to have a strong, safe and democratic society.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says:
Canadians want to be and feel secure, but not at any and all costs to their privacy — particularly when it comes to their own privacy. What they want is a balanced, well-measured and proportionate approach. It has become far too naive to believe that only “bad people’s” privacy is at stake or “if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear.”
(Strategic Priorities, http://bit.ly/2mQ3PuC)
Canada’s National Security Agencies
— CSIS —
The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) is the organization in Canada with primary responsibility for the collection and analysis of human intelligence. Its mandate and actions are governed by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Agency Act. Human intelligence is what we probably think of when we think of spies — people watching other people.
— RCMP —
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is Canada’s national law enforcement service, and operates under the Ministry of Public Safety Canada. The RCMP is unique in that it is a national, federal, provincial and municipal policing body. RCMP have a role in national security. It is responsible for conducting investigations to allow for criminal prosecution of suspected terrorists in Canada, and has a mandate to reduce the threat of terrorist criminal activity in Canada and elsewhere through prevention, detection, investigation and gathering evidence.
— CSE —
The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is the primary Canadian agency responsible for collecting foreign signals intelligence and for protecting the Canadian government’s information and communication networks. It is administered under the Department of National Defence, and its mandate is explained in the National Defence Act. CSE is the agency that monitors computer traffic. They are not supposed to collect information inside Canada about Canadians, but they are allowed to assist CSIS, the Canadian Border Services Agency, or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police if they receive a request that is authorised by a legal authority (i.e. a warrant from a judge).
— CBSA —
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) collects information at the border through the Immigration Security Screening program. Working with CSIS, CBSA monitors the movement of persons of interest as they enter or exit Canada, and when they apply for temporary or permanent residence or refugee status. CSIS, in turn, assists Citizenship and Immigration Canada and CBSA in their efforts to assess the admissibility of these individuals under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Canada's Partners: The 5 Eyes
The Five Eyes is a secretive, global surveillance arrangement made up of the United States National Security Agency (NSA), the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). These agencies have worked together since 1946 to share intelligence, but even though the agreement between them has existed for a long time, we know very little about how it actually works.
Why should teens care about privacy? Because it’s our future.
If we allow our governments to continue to increase surveillance measures in the name of national security, we are giving them permission to watch our every move. How safe are people when someone is constantly keeping tabs on us: Following us? Stalking us?”
Everyone has probably heard about Edward Snowden. He was a contractor with the US National Security Agency who was so concerned by the many government programs that were secretly being used to conduct mass surveillance by the US and international partners that he became a whistleblower. A whistleblower is someone who releases secret information to the public. The Snowden revelations have given us much more information about the way that governments spy on people, and share information with each other then we have ever had before. Some people believe Snowden is a traitor, and others think he is a hero.
While Snowden is the whistleblower that most people have heard of, there are other important ones as well. One whose experience is said to have influenced Snowden is Thomas Andrews Drake. Drake is also from the United States, and he worked at the NSA. In 2006, he leaked unclassified information about waste and unconstitutional activities within the NSA to a reporter, including information about a program for domestic mass surveillance called Trailblazer. Drake was charged under the American Espionage Act, but charges were later dropped in a deal that ended with him pleading guilty to misusing the agency’s computer system and receiving a year of probation. However, he paid a very high price for his effort to warn people about the NSA’s transgressions; his life was shattered and his ability to work in his field was destroyed.
Peer Privacy Protectors Share:
10 things to know about state surveillance
The prevalence and use of mass state surveillance increased after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Whistleblower William Binnie estimates that the NSA in the USA collects data on 3 billion phone calls a day. (http://bit.ly/2ndNRvx)
Mass surveillance can include storing and analyzing our browser history, internet searches, emails, instant messages, webcam conversations, and phone calls. It also includes metadata (“data about data”) that can include email recipients, call times, and location records but not content information.
The NSA has developed a tool named PRISM, which means they can tap into the servers of companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google and others without needing express permissions from the corporations themselves. Most Canadians have accounts with at least one of these big companies.
An agency in the United Kingdom called the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) tracks the IP address of people who have visited the Wikileaks website, no matter where they live in the world. (http://bit.ly/2ntMrc9)
Despite all the mass surveillance, there is no strong public evidence that it has directly prevented a single terrorist attack.
Emails and messages you send from Canada to someone else in Canada sometimes get routed through the USA before reaching the other person. This opens them up to surveillance in the United States.
Information sometimes gets shared between intelligence agencies when it shouldn’t be. Jean-Pierre Plouffe who acts as CSE watchdog commissioner said in his 2014–15 annual report that the CSE has indeed broken the rules by passing metadata involving the communications of Canada’s citizens to the Five Eyes. (http://bit.ly/2ntNA3F)
Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other social media sites often cooperate with national security agencies and law enforcement. Between January to June 2016, Facebook had requests for information on about 1,205 Canadian users and almost 83% of those requests produced some data in response. (http://bit.ly/2njJvjc)
It isn’t just people who have something to hide who should be concerned about privacy. Everyone requires a certain amount of privacy at some point, and everyone deserves the right to privacy.