Many of us had to read George Orwell’s novel 1984 in high school. We studied it as a prediction of the future which we were told would never came to fruition. Its critique of police states, authoritarianism, and loss of identity was potent, and it resonated with people. It’s a terrifying book. Unfortunately, it came true.
Many of you are reading this article on the internet. Maybe on a laptop, or a cellphone. Either way, you are connected. Even those of you reading this on a physical newspaper aren’t safe. What all of you have in common is that someone, somewhere, knows everything about you. Where you grew up, what your dog’s name is, your mother’s maiden name, where you got coffee on June 14, 2015, and everything you’ve ever searched on Google. And more. Right now, there are most likely multiple security cameras pointed at you. Your cameras in your devices are never truly off. Someone knows everything, and it isn’t you.
Welcome to the age of information.
In June of 2013, NSA analyst Edward Snowden released classified documents to the media which revealed that the US government and its allies were conducting mass surveillance campaigns on the population of not just America, but across the world. Everyday people who are just going about their lives, are subject to the same scrutiny as terrorists. That’s what the Government said it was for. To root out terrorists. But the documents Snowden released showed that the Government had failed to locate any terrorists in the US. No sleeper cells. No conspiracy. Nothing. We had all been subjected to an unprecedented crushing of our fundamental freedoms in the name of security.
Tyranny in the name of security is still tyranny.
Many of us were too young to understand the gravity of 9/11 when it happened. I, myself was eight months old when the towers fell. What came next though, I caught the full brunt of. The era following the attack was that of suspicion, paranoia, and surveillance. I have never known a world without security checks in airports, the militarization of police, and the sensationalization of tragedy on the news. The truth is, we are at a crossroads.
We all want to be perfectly private, whilst also being completely safe. Yet these things can’t be reconciled. So, we have a choice. Privacy or security.
And I choose privacy.
I think it is abhorrent that we are treated like animals to be studied. If I lose some security for my privacy, so be it. If we are meant to live under the boot of bureaucrats, then I say that it is not living at all. We are supposed to be the citizens of a nation, not subjects of it. The paranoia that grips all of us just proves that in a way, the terrorists, just like those on 9/11, have won. We now live in constant fear and suspicion of one another. I think that we deserve better than this.
So why is no one talking about it?
When Snowden released the documents, it was big news for a while, but other things eclipsed it soon after. Just like the Government wanted. You might remember the Canadian Federal Election, which just happened. Many issues were debated and discussed in the lead-up to E-Day, yet the absence of Mass Surveillance was deafening. No one talked about it. Not Scheer, Trudeau, Singh, May, or Blanchet. It looks like it’s here to stay.
There is hope, however.
Bernie Sanders, currently one of the front runners for the Democratic nominee for President, has taken a strong stance against the Intelligence agencies, including strong support for Net Neutrality. The rest of the democratic field has been eerily silent.
Something needs to change. In Ottawa, and in Washington. The very rights and freedoms we hold dear are being curbed in the name of security.
We deserve better than this. But until we find a way to put an end to this, say cheese.
You’re on camera.