29 June 2006

If You Have Nothing To Hide...

...then don't think you have nothing to fear. Not after the report in today's Globe, that
Bell Sympatico has informed its customers that it intends to "monitor or investigate content or your use of your service provider's networks and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy any laws, regulations or other governmental request."

Bell Sympatico's new customer service agreement, which took effect June 15, is a clear signal the telecommunications industry expects the Conservative government to revive the surveillance law, said Michael Geist, an Internet law professor at the University of Ottawa.
Duly executed court orders and warrants, I have no problem with. But given the "I want to be just like my big brother, George" attitude that seems to characterize the Harper government, I'm more wary about the "governmental request" aspect of Bell's revelation (thanks for telling us, guys!).

The big problem with the types of intrusions into civil liberties that characterize a steady decline to fascism is this: Those with something to hide? They generally take great pains to hide it. Those folks for whom being evil, or criminal, or both is a livestyle choice know all about encryption, proxy servers, and anonymizers. Us ordinary, more or less law abiding, nothing-to-hide types? We do all sorts of things about which we don't think twice, that, arranged and juxtaposed in a particular way, against a ground of law enforcement officials needing to find something could make us look awfully suspicious. Think about those poor people who traverse the entire justice system and back, and are still wrongfully convicted due to overzealous officials. The reversal that applies to this situation cannot be understated: If you have nothing to hide, you have much to fear, since your innocuous behaviour can be deliberately and maliciously misinterpreted, when and how it suits those with discretionary power.

My name? Uh, Smith. Joe Smith. That's joe.smith@sympatico.ca, in case you're listening in.

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1 comment:

GJ said...

Great post, Mark. It reminds me of the one of the earliest effects I noticed about the internet: the anonymity that inevitably leads to curiosity to seek out strange or taboo topics, and the resulting paranoia about who might be listening in, even without doing anything wrong, per se. I wonder to what degree people allow this fear to govern their online behaviour, even in the absence of any real threat to their privacy.