CONCLUSION - LISTEN TO CANADIANS!
Surveillance has been with us for thousands of years—Sun Tzu even devoted a chapter to the topic in his 2,500-year-old The Art of War. However it is only recently that governments have acquired the tools to place entire populations under systematic surveillance.
There is now a very real danger that the Internet, the greatest tool for connectivity that humankind has ever invented, will be turned into something it was never intended to be— a tool for governments to spy on the private lives of everybody.
Internet Voice: “Our electronic mail should have the same safeguards as our physical mail has had for over a century. The government should require a warrant to read any citizen's communication no matter the form of transmission of that communication.” - Maureen Y.
Behind the backs of their citizens, governments have been building surveillance tools unparalleled in their invasiveness, scope, and power. Our oversight mechanisms, designed for a different era, need to make sense in the 21st century. It’s remarkable that much of what we now know, we owe not to our official oversight bodies, but instead to a single NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden.
This project came in response to these revelations, and to the perfect storm of legislation being advanced by a government seemingly determined to sacrifice Canadians’ most basic human and democratic rights on the altar of an increasingly powerful and unaccountable security bureaucracy.
As an organization, participatory values are at the heart of everything OpenMedia does. We don’t just want citizens to have a seat at the table, we work to place citizens at the heart of decision-making. That’s why we’ve tried to reach out to the broadest possible number of Canadians to help shape this report. This open, participatory approach is all the more important given the government’s efforts to conceal the dramatic expansion of its surveillance capabilities from Canadians.
Canadians are clearly deeply concerned about their country’s continuing evolution toward out-of-control government surveillance. This is borne out both by our own crowdsourcing work, and by opinion surveys conducted independently.
Internet Voice: “During my years at UBC, I took several courses dealing with political issues in the Soviet Union. Spying on citizens and using fear tactics to keep people contained, obedient, and quiet should be a thing of the past. Should. I refuse to let fear make decisions in my life. I hope my political leaders do the same.” - Clara S.
The key recommendations we’ve set out in this report are designed to meet the concerns of Canadians, and to ensure that every resident of Canada can live their online and offline lives without fear of being watched. These proposals should form the core ingredients of any future legislation that purports to safeguard the digital privacy of Canadians. This is a practical agenda, but given the enormous power of entrenched security bureaucracies, we know it will require significant political will to implement.
That said, there’s no doubt that Canadians are deeply unhappy with out-of-control online spying and ongoing privacy breaches. With this report being written during an election year, decision-makers in all parties have a clear incentive to side with Canadians and take a strong pro-privacy stance— but we should be wary of politicians who “talk the talk” on privacy without committing to concrete steps like the key recommendations set out in this report.
The challenge ahead cannot be underestimated. Canadians are trying to roll back a surveillance system that has been growing more and more powerful, behind their backs, for many years.
Responding to this challenge and to future privacy threats will require prolonged vigilance on the part of Canadians and privacy advocates. But we have no doubt that Canadians, working together, are up to this task— when people come together there is nothing they can’t achieve.
We know this is a bold agenda— but it’s one that has been shaped by everyday people from coast to coast to coast from start to finish. Our message to decision-makers is clear: It’s time to listen to Canadians and fix our privacy deficit.
We invite you to endorse the findings of this report at PrivacyPlan.ca