The watcher -

The watcher


Tabatha Southey questions the Internet surveillance portion of the government’s promised omnibus crime bill.

Imagine that, because you’re pressed for time, you take a cab to the library. The cab driver is obliged by law to install a device that will monitor where he takes you. While in the cab, you call your friend to talk about your day. The phone company is obliged to track whom you talk to and for how long. At the library, you speak to a librarian, who jots down your query, because legally he must. He directs you to a specific shelf, and notes that too; each book you open will be recorded as well. Later, you see a film. The theatre notes which one, as it has to….

Most Canadians would be outraged about this situation, unless someone explained to them that all these actions – the visiting, conversing, research, commerce and movie watching – were conducted on the Internet. Substitute search engines for libraries and cabs, and telecommunications companies for the theatre, and lots of people quiet down.


The watcher

  1. Big Brother Steve….he’s everywhere

  2. It is hard to know if Ms Southey lives in Canada or Mongolia because companies and/or government already keep track of clients – phone company sends bill every month  that tells people who they talked to and for how long …. GPS in taxi ……   I tried to use my credit card a few weeks ago but it would not work …. someone stole my credit card info and tried to buy something in India on same day I tried to use card in Canada …. credit card company has to keep track of info like that because of various laws Government have passed over the years …. and public libraries have computer systems to keep track of their inventory. 

    We live in Surveillance State  and I am glad that Ms Southey has finally noticed. 

    Future And Its Enemies:

    Technocrats are “for the future,” but only if someone is in charge of making it turn out according to plan. They greet every new idea with a “yes, but,” followed by legislation, regulation, and litigation. 

    Like Schlesinger and Attali, they get very nervous at the suggestion that the future might develop spontaneously. It is, they assume, too important and too dangerous to be left to undirected evolution.

    Accustomed to technocratic governance, we take for granted that each new development, from the contents of popular entertainment to the latest in medical equipment, deserves not only public discussion but government scrutiny. 

    Every new idea seems to spark a campaign to ban or control it: breast implants and mobile phones, aseptic juice boxes and surrogate mothers, Japanese cars and bovine growth hormone, video games and genetic engineering, quality circles and no-haggle car pricing, telecommuting and MRIs, data encryption and book superstores—the list goes on forever.

    • So, you won’t complain about the CCTV cameras and microphones that are going to be installed in your house next week?

      Totally bizarre.

    • Private entities that you interact with collecting information about you is decidedly different from private companies being REQUIRED to collect said data about you and then hand it over to the government on demand.  There’s a pretty huge difference, imho, between me understanding that my ISP is capable of monitoring and recording where I go on the internet, and is probably doing so, and the government passing legislation that REQUIRES my ISP to track where I go on the internet and to REPORT THAT BACK TO THE STATE.

      The second part of your comment kinda contradicts the first.  I’m all for not over-regulating technology.  How about we start by not requiring private companies to collect information on their customers on behalf of the state?  You’re right that we already live in a surveillance society, but I see no good reason for our government to pass legislation to entrench said activities into law.  It’s bad enough that Google knows pretty much everything I do.  The government mandating that Google is legally obliged to continue tracking everything I do and to share what they find with the government isn’t an improvement.

      • “It’s bad enough that Google knows pretty much everything I do.  The government mandating that Google is legally obliged … ”

        These are not two separate events. Google knows pretty much everything we do because that’s what government wants. Google spies on us instead of State but when State needs info it gets what it wants from private companies. 

        Benito Mussolini ~ All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

        In 2002, the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to include new offences that would help combat the luring of individuals under the age of 18, by making it “illegal to communicate with children over the Internet for the purpose of committing a sexual offence”. 

        Accordingly, police services across Canada began collecting and reporting child luring incidents that come to their attention under this new legislative amendment.

        In 2006, a non-representative sample of 16 police services, representing 14% of the national population, began using a special indicator to gather and report information on child pornography incidents committed using a computer or the Internet.

        In this Decision, the Commission directs Société en commandite Télébec (Télébec) and TELUS Communications Inc. to provide all customers with monthly itemized billing statements within nine months of the date of this Decision. The Commission denies the request of Télébec to recover any costs associated with the introduction of monthly itemized billing statements.

        In Review of the general regulations of the federally regulated terrestrial telecommunications common carriers, Telecom Decision CRTC 86-7, 26 March 1986 (Decision 86-7), the Commission first set out the conditions on the frequency of issuing itemized billing.

  3. Just for the record, I’m a librarian, and every librarian I know would do whatever they could to avoid complying with such laws.  In the U.S., with the advent of the Patriot Act, many libraries now keep the bare minimum of information on  their patrons that they can, and routinely destroy records as soon as practically possible, so that if the FBI ever shows up with a demand for all of their records there will be no records for the library to have to surrender.  Some smaller libraries even went back to paper record keeping as opposed to electronic, in order to be able to shred files at the end of an interaction.  Many library software applications will only keep records of what a patron signs out until the items are returned (i.e. there is little to no history of one’s reading habits kept in the system) precisely so as to protect the privacy of library patrons.

    • One of the more interesting comments I’ve seen on here in a while. Thanks for sharing.

    • Traditionally, if the police wanted to track a phone number or place a tap they need a court order. As you can imagine with the growth/shift to the IP (VOIP, Cellular) world the authorities would focus on internet/GPS and I can’t imagine it is anything more than shifting focus to the IP/GPS world – if it is, then I can’t imagine it surviving in the court of law.

      I wouldn’t trust Tabatha Southey ( Certified Harper Hater and Media darling ) – instead read the bill – look at and

      Here I will give you an example:

      Woman phones 911 from cellular device frantically stating that an abusive former spouse is abducting her – click – phone goes dead. 911 contacts police who contact service provider with warrant hopefully giving police the ability to locate woman.

      • So the argument is that it’s worth compromising everyone’s privacy so as to maybe be able to save someone who might call in during an emergency and who is cut off before they can say where they are calling from, thereby allowing our ever-attentive police to immediately contact the phone company, get an immediate trace on the call, and intervene just in time to save the person.

        This seems like an even more imaginary scenario than the famous terrorist in custody who has vital information to stop an imminent bombing were it not for the ability of our interrogators to torture the person in custody so they will give up that vital information quickly and accurately.

        Yeah, right.

        • OK, I dont necessarily disagree with you (I like libertarian thought), but although T.Southeys view is a very compelling, ominous look at the law (I like Phillip K Dick and George Orwell too) why not present both possibilities:

          A scenario in which an evil government uses a law to further their control of certain individuals (although any evil government in Canada could just use the notwithstanding clause and do whatever they want)


          A scenario in which the government offers clarification to TSP’s given a changing media environment combined with a patchwork of privacy laws that TSPs must comply with.  <—-BORING

          As far as the example I gave, any good law considers unique circumstances that may present a 'grey area' –  No? 

          So, I think, even a Jack Bauer type scenario is worthy of discussion.