Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

First POST: Oh, Canada

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, January 31 2014

Oh, Canada

  • The Snowden files made news in Canada again today, with Greg Weston, Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher of CBC News reporting that the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), Canada's NSA, had used WiFi systems at the country's airports, hotels, and Internet cafes to track the behavior of thousands of ordinary citizens. Cybersecurity expert Ron Diebert told the CBC that CSEC's actions were almost certainly illegal. "All Canadians with a smartphone, tablet or laptop are 'essentially carrying around digital dog tags as we go about our daily lives,'" Deibert noted.

  • Ontario's privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, told the CBC News she was "blown away" by the news. "I mean that could have been me at the airport walking around… This resembles the activities of a totalitarian state, not a free and open society."

  • Writing in The Globe and Mail, Diebert--whose Citizen Lab has long been in the forefront of uncovering the efforts of authoritarian countries to spy on their citizens, says this is a moment of reckoning for Canadians:

    The revelations require an immediate response. They throw into sharp relief the obvious inadequacy of the existing “oversight” mechanism, which operates entirely within the security tent. They cast into doubt all government statements made about the limits of such programs. They raise the alarming prospect that Canada’s intelligence agencies may be routinely obtaining data on Canadian citizens from private companies – which includes revealing personal data – on the basis of a unilateral and highly dubious definition of “metadata” (the information sent by cellphones and mobile devices describing their location, numbers called and so on) as somehow not being “communications.” Such operations go well beyond invasions of privacy; the potential for the abuse of unchecked power contained here is practically limitless.
    We live in a world of Big Data and the Internet of Things, our lives turned inside out. We leave a vast digital trail of intimately revealing metadata around us wherever we go. Allowing the state to have access to all of it is incompatible with a free and democratic society. The question now for Canadians to collectively address is what are we going to do about it?

  • President Obama's new choice to head the NSA, Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, is a Navy expert on cyberwar, "but someone with no public track record in addressing the kinds of privacy concerns that have put the agency under a harsh spotlight," David Sanger and Thom Shanker write in today's New York Times.

  • The report that the NSA snooped on the Copenhagen climate summit of 2009, which collapsed in failure, is generating outrage among developing country climate leaders.

  • Wrecking gall: The Guardian has posted a video showing the day last July when, at the behest of GCHQ, they destroyed hard drives and memory cards holding their copies of the Snowden files.

  • The TSA's full-body scanners are "shit," writes a former employee of the agency who worked as an airport screener, in a tell-all for Politico Magazine. But that didn't stop TSA employees from spending hours gawking at ghostly images of naked travelers.

  • On the Bay Area class war: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff talks about how Silicon Valley techies need to be more more philanthropic, and admits that he's "a fan of civil disobedience."

  • Journalists, along with others attending the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, will be under full digital surveillance, according to a new government decree. The goal, say Russian investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, is "to impose self-censorship on journalists, foreign and domestic."

  • No beer delivery by drone, says the FAA to a Minnesota beer-maker who thought ice-fishers might be thirsty.

  • In case you missed it, here's "What Swartz, Lessig, Assange & Snowden Have to Teach Us," the text of the talk I gave in Berlin this past Sunday at the As Darkness Falls conference.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

More