An Invasion of Privacy

by Elyette Levy on February 5, 2017 - 9:18pm

According to the Merriam-Webster, ‘freedom of the press’ means “the right of newspapers, magazines, etc., to report news without being controlled by the government”. Despite it sounding simple, it seems it has been a tough promise to keep in recent years. The illusion that reporters nowadays have freedom of the press had already started to tear at the edges in 2013, when whistleblower (although I would argue that word is misleading – perhaps brave man would be more appropriate) Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was snooping on its and many other countries’ citizens (CNN). But in 2016, it was completely shattered when news came out that seven Quebec journalists had been spied by Montreal police officers.

In a CBC news article, journalist Sabrina Marandola reports that the spying had been going on since 2013, during an investigation by the Charbonneau Commission on corruption. At the time, the ex-president of the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), Michel Arsenault, had all the public’s attention because of some collusion accusations involving Quebecer entrepreneur Tony Accurso, as well as being at the center of another investigation where he was being wiretapped by the commission. He then complained to the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), “which forced police to do an inquiry … So they decided to ask for this warrant to spy on [the journalists’] cellular phone”.

The article, which was posted on the 2nd of November, mention the first case that came out: that of Patrick Lagacé. The police had 24 warrants to “track [his] whereabouts using the GPS chip in his iPhone, and to obtain the identities of everyone he communicated with.” As the reporters explained, this is a practice that was made by both the Montreal police force and the Quebec provincial authorities (SQ).

What does this say on our authorities’, the people who are supposed to protect and serve us, opinions about human rights? What does this mean about our democracy, which is being used as a model alongside the US’ in countries all around the world? But most importantly, does this mean that, from now on, freedom of speech implies violating human rights? If so, what’s the point of having freedom of speech at all?


Link to the article:





First of all, I’d like to say that you’ve chosen a great title for your post: it’s catchy, informative, but short enough to make me want to read the rest of your article! I also appreciate your use of details such as the definition of freedom of the press, exact dates, and names of agencies that were involved.

That being said, I think that you are intuitively looking at this problem through the lens of a rationalist ethical system. Ethical rationalism argues that we are duty-bound to reason because will––pure, practical reason––is the only thing that is unconditionally good and should thus lead to good actions. There are two imperatives in this system: a hypothetical imperative, which we act on to achieve a good outcome, and a categorical imperative, which we act on because the action itself is good and we are duty-bound to it. The only categorical imperative (the fundamental rule, if you will, of rationalism) is that of universalizability: act on something only if you wish for everybody to act in the same way. In essence, your actions, rather than their outcomes, must be good in order to be ethical.

Another key point of rationalism is that all rational beings cannot be treated as a means to an end, but are rather ends in and of themselves. In the case of this article, the journalists were being spied on as a means for the Charbonneau Commission to crack down on corruption. Regardless of the potentially positive outcome here of furthering the investigation, the action was simply wrong because rational human beings were treated as a means to an end: this is unethical according to rationalism.

About the author

Commerce student at Champlain College (although I suck at accounting). Half Taiwanese, half French, very Canadian (eh). When I say that communism is the solution, I don't even know if it's sarcastic.