The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains why you should worry about omnipresent government surveillance:
There are a few ways to respond to this, depending on what you think will work best for the person raising the question.
- Point out how mass surveillance leaves you at the mercy of not only the NSA, but also to the DEA, the FBI and even the IRS. We know that the government claims that any evidence of a “crime” can be sent to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
- Tell them that, even if you don’t think you have something to hide, it’s possible the government thinks you do, or can create some concern about you (or your friends or loved ones). There are so many laws and regulations on the books, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said the Congressional Research Service did not have the resources to count them all. One legal expert has argued that the average person likely commits three felonies a day without ever realizing. So, you may be technically breaking a law you have no idea about.
- We all benefit from a system that allows privacy. For example, when journalists can speak to sources without the specter of surveillance, helping fuel investigative journalism and the free flow of information. And this is not just a hypothetical — the Department of Justice subpoenaed the phone records of Associated Press journalists in an effort to track down government whistleblowers. And it’s not just journalists. Activists, political organizers, lawyers, individuals conducting sensitive research, businesses that want to keep their strategies confidential, and many others rely on secure, private, surveillance-free communication.
Brian Lilley is against a new bill that would provide the police with the power to demand that drivers submit to breath testing even when there’s no evidence that they’ve been drinking:
It’s the latest attempt to crack down hard on the ever-shrinking problem of drunk driving. The news release touting Bill C-556 states that, if passed, it would, “amend the Criminal Code to allow police officers to perform systematic random breathalyzer testing regardless of whether or not the driver shows signs of impairment.”
That means police don’t need a reason to give you a test.
They don’t need to see dilated pupils, smell booze on your breath or even have you admit you had a beer while watching the game.
The bill would give police a big increase in power and that’s not a step I want to take.
No one supports drunk driving, no one that I know anyway. And attempts to deal with the issue have largely been successful.
Statistics Canada is clear — drunk driving has been on the decrease for years now.
“The impaired driving rate generally declined from the mid-1980s to 2006, when it reached its lowest point in over 25 years, at 234 incidents per 100,000 population,” reads a report from the agency.
Back in the mid-80s there were roughly 600 incidents of impaired driving per 100,000 of population; in 2011 the Canadian average across all provinces and territories was 262 incidents per 100,000.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all Canadians are protected from unreasonable search and seizure.
This bill would shred that protection.
This bill isn’t a slippery slope. It’s a steep hill greased up with lard and those in favour of ever expanded police powers are just waiting for Parliament to step on it.
Canadians need to say no to drunk driving and they need to say no to this bill.
At Popehat, Ken White discusses the fascinating case of the public affairs office of the Boston Police department as a “victim” of “intimidation” from callers:
The story begins typically for Photography Is Not A Crime with a story about a Boston Police Department sergeant thuggishly assaulting a photographer recording a traffic stop. A PINAC fan and journalism student named Taylor Hardy called the Boston PD’s Bureau of Public Information on its public line to ask about the story. Hardy spoke with Angelene Richardson, a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department who provides information to the media and public. When Hardy published a recording of that call, the Boston Police Department arranged for him to be charged with wiretapping. Hardy claims that he informed Richardson that he was recording the call (though he did not successfully record that part of the conversation), apparently Richardson claims that he did not.
Even assuming that Hardy didn’t disclose that he was recording (and it would be foolish to take the BPD’s word on that), it’s very dubious policy for the government to charge a citizen with a crime for recording a call with a police department’s public information officer on the phone line the department identifies as its public information line. Any such communication can’t possibly be regarded as private. There may be constitutional problems with a wiretapping statute that allows prosecution of a citizen under those circumstances. But the BPP wasn’t done doubling down yet.
When Carlos Miller wrote about the wiretapping charges against Hardy, he encouraged readers to contact Richardson at her BDP telephone number and email address, which the BPD published online:
Maybe we can call or email Richardson to persuade her to drop the charges against Hardy considering she should assume all her conversations with reporters are on the record unless otherwise stated.
In other words, Miller encouraged his readers to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as protected by the First Amendment.
The BPD has charged Miller with witness intimidation. The BPD also threatened any of Miller’s readers who contact the BPD:
Detective Nick Moore also assured me he would do the same to any PINAC readers if they continue to contact departmental spokeswoman Angelene Richardson as they have been doing since yesterday.
“I can go and get warrants for every person who called her,” he said during a telephone conversation earlier this evening. “It’s an annoyance. It’s an act of intimidation.”
Indeed — an act of intimidation is involved. But it’s an act of intimidation by the BPD, which is sending a clear message about how it will handle citizen dissent.
What a accomplishment: the Boston Police Department has discovered a way to make it a crime for citizens to contact the person it designates to talk to citizens.
In Maclean’s, Erica Alini tries to explain just what the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is, and why Canadians should be very concerned about it:
To say that FATCA is controversial is an understatement. The law is so complex and onerous to implement that some foreign banks have reportedly kicked out their U.S. clients in order to avoid dealing with it. Americans living abroad are queuing to give up their U.S. passports over it. The other problem with FATCA is that it asks foreign banks to do things that are often illegal in their home countries, such as passing on certain private information.
It has caused a stir in Canada as well, but the press here generally portrays it as something that affects only dual citizens and green-card holders. Given the number of Americans who live in Canada, that would be enough to make it a big issue (and a big headache for Ottawa). But the truth is FATCA has the potential to touch a much larger number of unsuspecting Canadians.
In general, what you get for signing an agreement to enforce FATCA is a pledge that the U.S. will do its best to share some of its information on your country’s potential tax cheats. You read that right: Not a duty to reciprocate your efforts, but a lame “we’ll try hard” promise. That’s because the U.S. government does not, at the moment, have permission to force U.S. banks to share information with foreign governments. Only Congress can change that.
That sounds bad enough, but it gets worse for Canada. We are the exception — the only country with which the U.S. has an automatic information-sharing agreement. Now, the trouble with FATCA is that it demands some new information: Not about the Canadian assets and incomes of people who live in the U.S. but about the assets and incomes of people who live in Canada but might have some ties to the U.S. While Canadian taxation, thankfully, is based on residency — you owe the CRA if you’ve been living in Canada — the U.S. has started demanding that its citizens file taxes regardless of where they live.
One of the unforeseen effects of this legislation is that it’s been making it much harder for US citizens to do business in other countries or to work in other countries for extended periods of time. If foreign banks refuse to allow US citizens to open accounts, you’re imposing significant costs and extra inconvenience on people who are in no way attempting to hide assets or income from the IRS. As with so many government initiatives, it probably won’t inconvenience actual criminals all that much, but will primarily impact ordinary — innocent — US citizens.
Alex Tabarrok links to a Wall Street Journal article (paywalled, unfortunately) about the Indian court decision that will allow Indian voters to cast their ballots against all the candidates on offer:
Excellent news. Bear in mind:
Nearly a third of the members of the lower house of Parliament are facing criminal charges, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms, a New Delhi-based advocacy group for transparency in governance.
Even if that were not the case, however, one of the problems of democracy is that there is too little feedback and information transmission, due both to rational ignorance and the bundle nature of politics. Allowing for “none of the above” provides, not a panacea, but a little bit more feedback. Many people vote but have to hold their noses to do so. Many others don’t vote but do they not vote because they are satisfied or dissatisfied? None of the above gives the dissatisfied a chance to reveal their views and in so doing it may encourage more and better candidates.
At present, voting none of the above is just informational, i.e. none of the above is never “elected” even if it gets a majority, although the option to vote NOTA may change the outcome of the election. In the future a NOTA majority might signal a new election.
There have been a few elections here in Ontario I’d love to have had the option of voting “None of the above”.
Jon, my former virtual landlord, sent me this link and said “Does this sort of thing really matter any more? Aren’t all governments doing this?”
Under Tocqueville’s Influence, China Chooses Despotism
Paul A. Rahe
In the last few days, the national press has been full of reports suggesting that China’s new President, Xi Jinping, is orchestrating a revival of Maoism and a crackdown on those in China who would like to introduce within that country the procedures, practices, and institutions that distinguish the West: the rule of law, constitutionalism, freedom of the press, judicial independence, civil associations, and “universal values” – which is to say, a respect for human rights. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story on Saturday, claims that Xi is receiving strong support from former President Jiang Zemin; and on Monday The New York Times filled in some of the details:
Communist Party cadres have filled meeting halls around China to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society.
These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past.
Even as Mr. Xi has sought to prepare some reforms to expose China’s economy to stronger market forces, he has undertaken a “mass line” campaign to enforce party authority that goes beyond the party’s periodic calls for discipline. The internal warnings to cadres show that Mr. Xi’s confident public face has been accompanied by fears that the party is vulnerable to an economic slowdown, public anger about corruption and challenges from liberals impatient for political change.
The evidence now suggests the contrary — that Wang Qishan is by no means alone in his convictions, that Xi Jingpin and his lieutenants take quite seriously the possibility that China is in a pre-revolutionary situation, and that they are intent on putting a lid on everything. Where Tocqueville might have suggested that the way forward was for the country’s leaders to embrace the “seven subversive currents,” to carry out a revolution from above, and to gradually introduce into the country the rule of law, constitutionalism, freedom of the press, judicial independence, civil associations, and a respect for human rights, they have decided in this year — the 120th anniversary of Chairman Mao’s birth — to return to the path he charted more than 60 years ago.
At Techdirt, Glyn Moody has another word you need to know about those convenient ebooks you’ve been adding to your reader:
So, it seems that ebook users need to add a new word to their vocabulary: “undownloading” — what happens when you leave the authorized zone in which you may read the ebooks you paid for, and cross into the digital badlands where they are taken away like illicit items at customs. If you are lucky, you will get them back when you return to your home patch — by un-undownloading them.
What makes this tale particularly noteworthy is the way it brings together a host of really bad ideas that the publishing and distribution industries insist on deploying. There’s DRM that means you can’t make backups; there’s the country-specific usage that tries to impose physical geography on your digital ebooks; and there’s the update that spies on you and your system before deciding unilaterally to take away functionality by “undownloading” your ebooks. And copyright maximalists wonder why people turn to unauthorized downloads….
I have dozens of books stashed away on my iPhone … but they’re all public domain works. I doubt I’ll be adding any DRM-afflicted items to my library any time soon.
This is probably the most attention the CBC has paid to REAL Women of Canada since … well, ever:
REAL Women of Canada, a privately funded socially conservative group, says Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is imposing his own views on Uganda, Kenya and Russia when he criticizes those countries for passing legislation targeting homosexuals.
The group, which describes itself as a “pro-family conservative women’s movement,” issued a press release Wednesday decrying what it called Baird’s “abuse of office” and his awarding of a $200,000 grant to “special interest groups” in Uganda and Kenya “to further his own perspective on homosexuality.”
REAL Women also lambasted Baird for admitting he worked extensively behind the scenes to persuade Russia not to pass laws restricting foreign adoption of Russian children by gay couples and cracking down on gay rights activism to control the spread of “homosexual propaganda.”
Finally, the press release states, “Mr. Baird’s actions are destructive to the conservative base in Canada and causing collateral damage to his party.”
It’s not often that the CBC can find this kind of anti-Harper criticism coming from a group they would identify as being “core” Harper supporters, so it’s not surprising they give it the full treatment it really doesn’t deserve.
H/T to Brendan McKenna for the link.
James Miller on token attempts to roll back the security state by local governments and other groups:
New surveillance technology lowers the barrier of effort needed to soak the productive class of the surplus fruits of its labor. From monitoring backyards to ensure taxes are being paid on swimming pools to spying on farmers who violate agricultural regulations, states across the globe are already using new spy tools to extort more loot from the greater public.
All the while, the political class gives an assurance that the technological innovation will not be abused. Newspaper editors parrot the message and paint any critic as a tinfoil hat loon who thinks Big Brother sleeps under their bed. And then there are the television intellectuals who take great joy in making flippant remarks about conspiracy theorists. Each of these personalities pictures him or herself as sitting a few ladder rungs above the horde of bumbling mass-men.
One has to be either lying or painfully ignorant to believe government will not abuse surveillance drones. State officials have rarely failed to use their capacity to terrify the populace. Just recently, journalist Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency sweeps up the internet activity of all U.S. residents absent any warrants. Prior to the leak, those politicians in charge of overseeing the government’s oversight activities claimed the snooping was done in the public good and not as widespread as suspected. The new details of the program contradict the assurance, as the NSA’s spy activity is more intrusive – and prone to abuse – than originally thought.
A sterling record of misconduct is still not enough to convince enlightened thinkers and academics of the state’s propensity to terrorize. There are still a handful of civil liberty organizations calling attention to the dangers of the widespread use of surveillance drones and data gathering. But their beef is focused more on the right to privacy rather than a usurpation of basic property rights.