Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Why I can’t read John Rickards’ blog anymore

All indications are that our government is going to revive an internet surveillance bill to make sure Canadians are behaving online.

I want to be all bold on this, and say I’ll fight to the end, what do I care if the government knows I’m reading about horsefucking and Hardboiled Jesus? Except I live in Alberta, surrounded by farmers and the morally invested religious types. And the farmers have sharp pitchforks. Why do you think I shoot off my mouth on the blog? It jest ain’t proper for no wimmenfolk to be talkin’ ‘bout stuff they don’t understand, ne’er mind such unwholesome things.

Okay okay, I’m not serious. Well, I do live in Alberta. I am surrounded by farms. And Alberta is known for its right-wing politics, but that really has nothing to do with this.

What I can’t figure out is how I feel about this potential law, to be honest with you. Maybe it’s a bizarre coincidence that I’m putting this up today instead of yesterday, a day when all my friends to the south are celebrating independence, freedom, and I’m not sure how to feel about losing the luxury of anonymously surfing the web.

You’ll note, if you look at the article, that Bell Sympatico has already started monitoring the activities of their customers. We’ve received no such notification from our provider, but I suppose the time is coming.

I know it would be easy to climb on the moral high horse and equate this activity with the government reading my mail. It’s no different than them following me store to store and listing which books I buy or rigging my TV so they can see what channels I watch. And that is disturbing in a “Fahrenheit 451” way. The more power the government has, the more dangerous it is. One may say right now, “But I like my prime minister and I voted conservative, so it’s okay.” But once the laws will be in effect when the next prime minister takes office, and what if it’s the marijuana party? Okay, highly unlikely, but you get the point. If the bill passes, it’s there for all future governments to use. And what if, some day, the government isn’t one you trust? For some of you, that might be right now. Certainly when politicians who have strong corporate interests get into power, I’m not happy to think of them using a bill like this potentially to gain data they might abuse for their side businesses. I consider that to be a real potential problem.

On the other hand, we’ve got children being exploited through child porn. We’ve got vultures luring children off the internet. We’ve got those insidious spammers and hackers who try to break in to any computer they can – I’d love to see something done to them.

I think my fear centers around the idea that people might accept this bill, thinking about these things. Believing in the potential good. Believing that pedophiles and terrorists will be the targets. They want to see the spread of terrorist ideologies online stopped. And who can blame them?

Yet, as it’s been pointed out, recent arrests of terrorist suspects in Canada prove that the current laws provide a sufficient window to target those crimes.

Without encroaching on the rights of all other Canadians.

Hmmm. See, I’m still not 100% on either side of the fence. I have a feeling I should be jumping down on the opposition side, though.

In fact, I recently switched banks. After more than 11 years with the Royal Bank, I took out an account at the credit union. Now, I shouldn’t say I “switched”. We didn’t cancel the Royal Bank account. It’s set up for too much stuff.

So, why get the other bank account? It’s simple. The Royal Bank started requiring that you register all of your bills in order to pay them through the bank.

No fucking way. Uh uh. They do it for the altruistic purpose of keeping your business there, because it’s convenient to go to one bank and pay all of those bills. I balked as soon as I saw it.

It isn’t the first time this has happened. Kevin still has a CIBC bank account, from his single days, that I have no access to. He used to pay his bills there. Then they required all bills be registered.

My Royal Bank account existed before we got married. I added Kevin to it, so he has access (if I let him have the bank card). Once the CIBC required bill registration, I started paying his bills.

It’s simple. Kevin’s worked at too many businesses for us to be ignorant of this. Once they have that information stored, it becomes a privacy issue, one that concerns me beyond just the manipulation involved in pressuring us to keep our business with them.

So, we lean well on the side of liking our privacy. It isn’t even that I’ve got deep, dark secrets to hide.

And yet, I research some pretty bizarre stuff online. As does Kevin. Between his fire investigation stuff (for which he actually needs to know how using gasoline to set a fire versus other substances affects the burn patterns) and my criminal investigation stuff, we could come under some serious scrutiny. Sandra types in google “Body decomposition 7 days in water rape kit results” and follows that up with something else, like “lure children through internet” and I wouldn’t be surprised to get a knock on my door. This is all stuff I have done searches on, or related to, as well.

More and more, it seems we walk a fine line, between respecting freedoms and stopping those who would abuse them to harm others. Ultimately, I have nothing to fear, because I’m not a criminal. And if they think my internet activity is suspicious, they should see my library.

But I’m still not feeling too comfortable about this.

Of course, I’m not serious about not reading John’s blog anymore. But I think the idea - if your neighbours knew what you were reading about online, would you be embarrassed? – is enough to show that even us normal people have reasons to be concerned about how some of our online activities might be interpreted.

This coming from a member of a group called Killer Year.

Happy Fourth of July to my friends to the south.

And welcome back to work to my friends here who’ve just had their long weekend.


Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

NO government collects personal information on its citizens for altruistsic reasons. It's all about control. Period. The biggest line of bullshit going is, "If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about."

So much for my July 4th paranoid rant. Now I can crack open a beer.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Cheers Patrick! I'm not going to disagree with you.

JamesO said...

"Ultimately, I have nothing to fear, because I’m not a criminal."

* Tries not to laugh mirthlessly *

This is a very thought-provoking post, Sandra, and something I could rant about for hours. Freedoms we used to take for granted are being slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) whittled away. Our government recently lost its attempt to have the right to detain suspects for ninety days without charge. That's right THREE MONTHS. WITHOUT CHARGE. Whatever happened to habeus corpus? Fortunately parliament threw the bill out. But less than half a year later, it's being debated again.

And don't even get me started about Guantanamo Bay and all the other illegal things being justified by the so-called 'war on terror'. Just WTF do the US administration think they're doing? As I recall, the Pilgrim Fathers came to America to escape religious persecution in Europe...

Two quotes: 'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.' (Thomas Jefferson) - and I'd add that vigilance is up to each and every individual - it's not something a state can do. And:
'Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.' (Benjamin Franklin)

American politicians used to be quite bright.

I think we should all band together and agree that every day we will post or email at least one message each containing the words 'assassinate George W Bush' and see how well the internet monitors cope. I'm quite happy to add 'Stephen Harper' to that if it helps.

Trace said...

It is a scary world out there. So many things disquised as being for our own good, when really it's just a total invasion of privacy and control.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Laugh away, James. I smirked when I typed it.

The right to hold people without charges is serious, and don't start me on Guantanamo Bay either. Or... well, a few other things Bush has done.

That said, I guess the thing is that I understand the very real fears that people have. Some people actually want this. This was originally a Liberal government bill that died when the gov't did. I'm not sure I blame Stephen, personally, but rather the political pressures of the day. We're also under a lot of pressure from the US to tighten up our national security, and that doesn't get shrugged off lightly. Forget right and wrong when it comes to playing politics - the same people who want softwood lumber and mad cow and other trade disputes resolved are sometimes - I stress sometimes - willing to trade some of our rights and freedoms for the financial gain. It's all posturing, and a lot of the policy around terror bills and things like this is coming via pressure from Dubya.

Not that I want that to come off sounding anti-American. It's just that we don't make our decisions in a vaccuum, not anymore, if ever. But especially, external involvement in domestic laws has increased since 9/11. A lot of people are reported to still believe the 9/11 terrorists came from Canada, because it's more comfortable to believe that they couldn't have gotten in any other way than slipping across a border with insufficient protection. It's given rise to the Minute Men monitoring our borders on the US side, and there's a lot of finger pointing that goes on.

I'm not saying we're perfect, but there's a lot of pressure to just do stuff to make it look like we're fixing perceived problems when, frankly, our airport security has always been tighter than airport security in the US, for one thing. I've flow in and out of Minneapolis and Detroit, Houston, Chicago, to name a few places. Compared to Tunisia, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, London England, Japan... many other places I could mention, my experiences in the US were pretty lax, and that included flying in and out during the first Gulf War.

So, sometimes, people want to shut their eyes to the things in their own back yard and focus on shortcomings elsewhere because it's easier to deal with, but it's a real problem for us. We're already bad for not going to war in Iraq, and the government is trying to deal with international relations, unfortunately at the expense of the rights of our citizens.

Bill Cameron said...

In my view, civil liberties should trump fear. And it's become something of a cliché, but when we give in to our fear, the terrorists win.

Ultimately, every time some so-called freedom-loving government enacts a law (or in the case of the Bush administration acts outside the law) to infringe upon the civil liberties of its citizens, a piece of the freedom so many claim to cherish dies. How long before it's simply gone, chipped away to nothing by fear?

I'm not afraid of terrorists. I'm afraid of those people who support their government spying on themselves and their fellow citizens, who support the destruction of civil liberties and human rights as a sop to their anxiety. And I'm angry at politicians who manipulate fear to gain power and destroy the rights of those whom they purport to lead.

If freedom is so precious, why are so many willing to sacrifice it?

In recent years, Ben Franklin has been given quite the workout, but if he has to be quoted ad infinitum until he is finally heard, then so be it: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

M. G. Tarquini said...

When I'm not in 'social mode', I'm so quiet (nobody believes it, but it's true) that I think my neighbors would be shocked to find out I talk online at all. I don't talk about anything much interesting at my blog, anyway. Those government types would be disappointed. I don't even have people googling in for unusual sex acts.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Trace, you're right - total invasion.

Bill, tell us what you really think! LOL!

Mindy, we have to work on that. Maybe we should compile a list of x-rated phrases for you to work into a Lala story.

Call it artistic growth...

Bill Cameron said...

I am shy and retiring and I have no opinions.

Sandra Ruttan said...

OMG, we really are twins Bill! I'm the exact same, a moderate voice of reason able to listen and consider without ever jumping to a conclusion, never feel the need to shoot off my mouth about my opinion and am always diplomatic.

John R. said...

Online monitoring laws are daft anyway since legitimate monitoring for criminal cunning (paedophiles et al) is already doable and Joe Hacker/Spammer is going to be smart enough to either cloak their IP or originate all their stuff from an ISP well outside Canada/USA/wherever. John Q Doingnothing is going to be the only person further affected by it.

But hey, people still shop at Walmart. Now there's some scary monitoring stuff.

Sandra Ruttan said...

And I was going to get you a "if you're Canadian, show me your beaver" t shirt with tracking software in it.

Then you went and mentioned Walmart.

Andrea at Lochthyme said...

Warrent, they need a fricking warrent! No no no they shouldn't have unfettered access to what we do online...that's our business. That's like good old George W. accessing our phone records...hello what's up with that? Like another poster said I'm not afraid of the terrorist...my government right now terrifies me. They want to take away every freedom I have. It may be for "good reasons" but in the end they will use it for bad reasons or for any reason they want to. Give them too much rope and they will strangle us. And don't get me started on George W. he is an imecile, an ass, a scary person and how he every became president boggles my mind. Oh wait he controlled all the electronic voting machines so he could win...oh wait did I say that out loud? And just think about the fact that he has his finger on the button for nuclear weapons...just inspires confidence don't it?

Bill, the Wildcat said...

As far as monitoring Internet activity, I don't know that I'm entirely opposed to that. My only reservations are: 1-How do you pick where and when to focus on an individual? 2-The aforementioned worry of what happens if a government I don't approve of gets its hands on these privileges?

For one book I was writing, I researched online about nuclear missiles and missile silos, so I certainly would have reason to worry about this kind of monitoring. Yes, my reasons for this research were benign, but how is a so-called government watch dog to know the difference?

I can say I didn't oppose the recent controversy of the CIA going into bank records as a means to "follow the money" to terrorists. That struck me as a rather logical step.

Boy Kim said...

Umm... oh never mind. It doesn't matter now.

Sandra Ruttan said...

It's okay Boy Kim. They aren't monitoring yet!

Well, Andrea, I wonder how long before the CIA is monitoring my blog?! LOL! Might have to scrap those BoucherCon plans after all!

Bill, it's interesting you're able to walk that fine line. I can understand those "logical steps" - it's where they draw the line to stop it from getting out of hand that concerns me.

It's also funny to think of paying people through my taxes to spy on...ME! Like I'm so important. Not.

Lisa Hunter said...

It's strange to me to see the U.S. government behaving so intrusively. After all, this is a country that had a revolution over taxes on tea and having to buy stamps. In the 1770s, Americans thought THAT was a government abuse of power.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Times have changed, haven't they Lisa?!

I think the other issue, of course, is that some people here don't mind. I've heard more "we should join the US" sentiment in the past five years than in the preceding 30. But the Alberta separatists got quiet when Stephen Harper became PM, something for which I thank Mr. Harper for. I noticed they changed the "separation long overdue" sign on the highway to "more power for the provinces" though.

Amra Pajalic said...

I tend to think that the more the government infringes on our privacy, the more opportunities it creates for people to abuse that information. The problem with all of these anti-terrorist legislation being introduced (and Australia has gotten in the act) is that if you are doing benign research and set off some alert somewhere, they have the right to detain you indefinately and the onus is on you to prove your innocence as opposed to them proving your guilt. So even though you think you might have nothing to fear, in fact we have everything to fear because once stained with the criminal brush it will never wash out.

I also recently changed from a big corporate money scabbing bastard bank to a credit union after wanting to do so for years and years. I feel free as a bird and so happy. We did the change slowly over a few months and it ended up being quite painless. Closing the accounts gave me such pleasure.

Sandra Ruttan said...

"So even though you think you might have nothing to fear, in fact we have everything to fear because once stained with the criminal brush it will never wash out."

Well said Amra.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Lisa, an interesting point. Don't forget the main issue was all that being imposed without representation, though.

Sandra Ruttan said...

So, can I be opposed to the US because I don't have gov't representation there?

Bill Cameron said...

As far as I can tell, the only people who have representation in the U.S government are "people" whose last names are "Inc." or "Ltd."

Bill, the Wildcat said...

hehe Now, that's an interesting point, Sandra.

I've often wondered about how others in the world view the U.S. Certainly, I can appreciate a few of the things that would vex other nations. That the U.S. has fits and rants about sanctions for nations developing nuclear weapons still has me wondering when a news agency will get the balls to ask a politician, "Don't you think the U.S. is being a little hypocritical about this considering we have nuclear weapons and there aren't any sanctions against us because of it?"

Sandra Ruttan said...

If I have one complaint with some Americans - I stress SOME - it's this. With some people, any comment about government shortcomings or things that could be done differently or problems in the US is taken as a broad, sweeping attack on the nation as a whole.

I've traveled extensively in the US. Not as much as I'd like, either. I have many friends who are Americans. So, when I point out something that I think could see some improvement, it isn't meant as an attack on the whole country. Hell, the lousy UK rail system is so frickin' annoying I have to call 10 phone numbers to book 4 tickets! Yet I love the UK.

I could go all night listing things about my own country that I'd like to see changed. It doesn't mean I don't love my country. It means that, in the same way a parent that really loves their child accepts them but still wants to help them improve so that they'll be the best person they can be, I want to see Canada do better, too. When people project a strong "we're perfect, how dare you criticize us" attitude, people see them as conceited, arrogant and unreproachable. And you know the saying - pride comes before a fall. In the same way good people are willing to look at themselves and address things that could be changed or improved, the citizens of a nation do the same for their country. If I didn't care about the US, I wouldn't waste breath commenting on it. I feel reluctant to say all I think sometimes, but there's room for growth, for improvement, in both of our countries.

Don't think the US is the only country that uses political pressure to get what it wants! Not for a second.

Andrea at Lochthyme said...

Sandra I hate people like that too. You say something bad about the government and somehow you are anti-american. Bush is very good at using this to his advantage. He tries to push through some stupid legislation and people disagree with it and they end up being called anti-american. They try to confuse the issues by throwing around the anti-american lable and it drives me nuts. And Bill Cameron is right when he said "As far as I can tell, the only people who have representation in the U.S government are "people" whose last names are "Inc." or "Ltd."" Big business gets all the breaks while the rest of us get taken to the cleaners.

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