In April of this year, the Human Rights Council at the UN presented a report on the urgent need for laws that regulate Internet surveillance practices to protect human rights standards. As the months go by, that need is becoming more and more apparent. As allegations of spying fly with the exposure of programs like PRISM and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it seems that Canadians may have real cause for concern when it comes to individual privacy.
“Canadians should know that they live in a borderless environment when it comes to North America.”
Rosenberg is not at all surprised at the reach of the government’s ability to collect information. He is, however, pleased that the issue is gaining some public momentum.
“Companies probably want to be responsible with your information,” he said. The thing that has changed drastically in recent years is that the collection and storage of information has become cheap and easy. What has changed “is the scope.”
“All of a sudden the government is looking at vast amounts of information and this is all possible because of computers. The scope of the privacy issue is directly related to the technology.”
But, Rosenberg argues that individuals who endeavour to commit acts of terrorism will work around known surveillances. “9/11 changed things a lot. You have these people who were doing a lot of planning over the Internet. If the Internet had been monitored in some fashion, could it have been anticipated? That’s not clear at all. The [Boston Marathon Bombing] just happened and that wasn’t anticipated.”
But proponents of the bill - like Public Safety Minister Vic Toews - suggested those who opposed the legislation, “supported child pornographers.”
So are we on a runaway train? Rosenberg thinks we might be. The only way to reverse the problem, he says, is through transparency.
“We are almost out of control [of the collection of information]. The problem is, we expect government to be responsible. What we need to do is, we need to know what type of information is being collected. What that information is being used for should be apparent and that it’s secure. The government claims the right to do what they want [with our information]. How did they get this right? Did they ask? The government would say: no this is just what we’ve always been doing. We just do it better now. We do it faster. We get more information. We can answer questions more quickly and we can be more efficient.”