Canadian Spy agencies: Are they violating our right to privacy?
by MihaiRapeanu on February 5, 2014 - 8:26am
The article Spy agencies, prime minister’s adviser defend metadata collection written by Laura Payton of CBC News revivals the controversial debate regarding data recording by spy agencies. This article conveys the position of John Forster, the chief of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) who recently had to defend the position of the agency concerning a possible Wi-Fi track of the movements of Canadian passengers in Canadian airports. This polemic arises as a consequence of the information revealed by the National Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. In one of the documents released by Snowden, the Canadian agency is indeed blamed for having collected metadata from Canadian passengers. The CSEC would have therefore collected the location and telephone numbers of calls and even the IP addresses of Canadians using the Wi-Fi service offered in the Canadians airports. This could represent a violation of privacy rights because the spy agency is not supposed to stick to domestic intelligence.
During a question period in front of the Senate, John Forster explained the utility of metadata and insisted on the fact that this type of information is not use to build profiles on Canadians. He also added that metadata is essential to CSEC’s work and that the federal agency doesn’t perform mass surveillance of Canadians. Those revelations are preceded by a previous statement of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s national security adviser, Stephen Rigby, who referred to the collected metadata by the CSEC as “data about data”. Indeed, this type of information doesn’t include the content of a call or a message sent through internet. It only discloses the date, time, duration and location of the communication, as well as the device ID. In some cases, “tags” about the conversation can also be recorded. The moral claim invoked by the government is that we should protect the ones we love, the ones responsible for our own success (be good to the ones that were good with you, the ones that elected you). In more bureaucratic terms, the government has the duty to protect its citizens. The collection of metadata represents, according to federal officials, an efficient way to achieve this goal and to respect this moral claim.
On the other hand, the article reports the concerns of Chantal Bernier, Canada’s interim privacy commissioner, about how spy agencies use social media to collect information. According to her, there is a potential for privacy invasion. She argues that the watchdog supervising the Canadian spy agency has to be more reactionary and should restrict the collection of personal data for Canadians. The author also presents the displeasure of the opposition members at the House of Commons regarding the small cooperation of the Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson. They indeed consider the problem as violation of the privacy rights for all Canadians passengers that were tracked by the CSEC. The moral claim invoked by the opposition is the Golden Rule (ethic of reciprocity). We should not threat others in ways that one would not like to be treated. Having a private life is something that every human being is willing to have and the opposition is resolute to protect this constitutional right.
In my opinion, the right to privacy is a fundamental right that has to be protected by every government ruling a modern state. The moral claim invoked by the opposition is legitimate and is based on love. We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. This rule also embodies the moral claim used by the government. We should not harm someone because we wouldn’t like to be harmed. The Golden Rule originated thousands of years ago and was a part of several moral standards in many parts of the world. Confucius was among the first to understand it and to promote it. Nowadays, by providing a right to privacy, the Canadian government respects those two moral claims and protects its citizens from being harmed (by the government and by the terrorist organisations). The CSEC should consequently focus on foreign intelligence and prevent the dangerous terrorist attacks that are planned on the other side of our borders.
Source: Payton, Laura. “Spy agencies, prime minister’s adviser defend metadata collection.” CBC News. 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/spy-agencies-prime-minister-s-adviser-defend-wi-fi-data-collection-1.2521166