The act of handing more powers to its intelligence agencies.
Yes, the Canadian government has passed a controversial anti-terrorism Bill, 183 votes to 93, to extend the powers of the country’s spy agencies.
It’s all in the interests of national security of course. The excuse or cover being used is the recent – and first ever – terrorist attack on Canadian soil last October, in which a gunman attacked the country’s parliament, shot a soldier on ceremonial guard duty and was subsequently killed himself.
The new legislation gives Canada’s spooks the ability to make preventative arrests. In other words, like America’s controversial ‘extraordinary rendition’, the Canadian Intelligence Service will be able to take “measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada, including measures that are authorized by the Federal Court”. And they can do it inside Canada as well as in other countries.
All well and good.
But tacked on to the legislation is the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which hands government agencies “increased information disclosure powers”, which is a nice way of saying they can snoop on almost anyone and everyone as and when they want to.
They are going to keep Canadians safe by listening to their phone calls and reading their emails, just like they do in America.
Doesn’t it give you a nice warm feeling of security?
Nope, me neither! .
Apple and Google recently enabled full-device encryption by default on their mobile operating systems – and big brother doesn’t like it – not one bit. As always he talks about things like ‘National Security’, ‘terrorist threats’, etc., and that there will be total chaos in the streets if ordinary citizens are allowed their right to privacy.
Some of the stuff that has hit the media has been ridiculous and would be laughable except these idiots are actually intent on total control.
For example, the head of the FBI has issued dire warnings of children dying if ordinary people are allowed their privacy via encryption programs. The secretary of Homeland Security used the deaths of the 168 people killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as ‘proof’ that, while privacy was important, encryption should not be allowed to stymie US law enforcement.
Big Brother wants to stick his nose into EVERYTHING. Anything that makes that harder to do frustrates the hell out of him.
So he continues with the stupid excuse that the necessity to snoop on law abiding people is because criminals and terrorists might use encryption tools as well.
It’s a bit like saying that no one should be allowed to drive a car because someone, somewhere, sometime, might get drunk and cause a fatal accident.
Then there’s the EnnEssEhh director who wants mandatory “front doors” to be built into all cryptographic technology used in the U.S., so that you can’t have secrets it can’t spy on. His idea is for all encrypted software and hardware used in the U.S. to have one encryption key for the user (you) and another that would be made available to the government bureaucrat spooks any time they wanted it.
This is complete nonsense. And they know it. But still they persist.
They have already got the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which removed the right of a purchaser to use their goods as they see fit. This legislation means that digital products continue to be the property of the seller – not (you) the buyer who paid for them. And it makes it illegal for buyers of digital goods to circumvent any features that allow snooping.
Going back to my car analogy, that is like a car dealer selling you a car on the condition that you never open the hood to see how it works, or perform your own modifications.
In practical terms this means that if you buy a new phone or computer, the manufacturer can have a spy device pre-installed in its hard components or its software and you would be forbidden by law from finding out about it or fixing it.
If Big Brother thinks he can enforce stupidity like this then he is even crazier than I think he is – and I think he is completely crazy already!
Big Brother can legislate all he wants, but we all know that the only people who will abide by these new laws will be the law abiding people. The criminals and terrorists will find ways round it, through it, over it, or under it.
It’s the same flawed logic as in the continued cry from liberals to take legally registered guns away from law abiding people so that only the criminals are armed.
Then there is, not the probability – but the FACT – that if a government spook friendly encryption system was created, it would immediately be attacked by hackers – including hackers employed by foreign governments, some of them friends of the terrorists that the legislation is supposed to be there to defeat.
And what about the practical commercial aspect to it all? When you think about it, who in their right mind is going to pay good money for an encryptiuon system that they know can be broken?
Would you buy an expensive lock if someone else had the key?
The World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, turned 25 years old this year, 2014.
There has never been anything like it before, certainly not as regards the impact it has made on society and the way we live our lives. Many of those changes are good, many are not so good and a few are downright annoying.
Here’s my take on some of them.
To concentrate on the good parts first, the one thing the www has done, for those who can use it effectively, is to give access to information that was previously only available to the elite few who managed to claw their way into the lofty heights of academia, or who worked in places where information was readily available. Now the same information is accessible at the touch of a button to anyone and everyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer.
Another benefit, in my view anyway, is that is has sent a massive wake-up call to telephone providers world wide, many of whom were fast asleep, content to rake in healthy profits from antiquated systems. No longer do we have to settle for slow and temperamental data transfer lines. Nowadays, particularly in the last few years, people are demanding systems that can cope with download streams in the gigabyte range. If you are old enough to remember the first modems you will know you wasted too much of your life trying to download at 12Kb/sec., sometimes less.
Freedom is also a welcome by-product of the World Wide Web.
The freedom to work in any country in the world, from virtually any country in the world is one big plus – it is for me anyhow. Another one I particularly like is the freedom to watch TV programs that I like, when I like, no longer tied to the schedules of some brainless bean-counter working for a broadcasting company. And the freedom to have your say on things as and when the mood takes you – they call that blogging don’t you know! – is also a great advantage to the ordinary person.
As is the freedom to disseminate information across the globe instantly, as Mr Snowden ably demonstrated, although I would hazard a guess that the powers that be would not agree with me on that one.
Indeed, this is the one aspect of the www that really bothers big brother.
China for example is one country where access is controlled by the state. Coincidentally this year also marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, you’ll find articles about that if you do a search, but probably not in China. They get away with it because they are not a democracy and do not pretend to be one.
In other countries, like the good old Land Of The (Not So) Free (Anymore)), the powers still like to con their people into believing that they are living in a democratic nation and that the people have the power to vote for this or that. But think for a moment, when was the last time you got to vote on whether to start a war, or whether to give $billions of your money to the greedy banksters to pay themselves huge bonuses and gamble away the rest?
It is because they need to keep the pretence of democracy going, that they do not yet have the confidence to start overtly censoring the internet. But they do all they can to snoop on what people are reading, or writing, or looking at.
This is where the freedom the www and associated technology provides can also be a negative, when it is used by governments to surveil us and record every piece of data they can. If they were doing this selectively and targeting terrorists and criminals no one would be too worried. But they are doing it to all of us, guilty and innocent alike.
They are also doing everything they can think of to impose taxes on internet commerce – of course they have to coz they’re stoney broke.
The www has revolutionized business practices and created all sorts of new commerce opportunities, Amazon perhaps being the best example of a company that has gone from nothing to a multi-billion dollar business in just a few years.
Communication and social interaction are also areas where the www has liberated the ordinary person – first with email and more recently with social media. In the near future expect to see social media expanding to become much more than individual platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. We are already seeing many new applications that are allowing people to communicate more widely, more easily and more often.
Another negative is that the World Wide Web has unwittingly facilitated the proliferation of pornography and violence, and is teaching a generation of morons all the wrong things. Things that will ensure they become a burden on society, not an asset.
And it has also opened a whole new environment in which criminals can operate. Millions of dollars are being stolen every day through scams, confidence tricks and outright theft.
You could say (and I frequently do) that people dumb enough to fall for these scams deserve all they get, or all they lose, is perhaps a better way of putting it. You know, the idiots who believe they really have won a lottery they didn’t buy a ticket for, or who think that Dr Umbungo Watanga from Nigeria is being truthful when he tells them that someone they never heard of has left them $25 million and all they need to do is send all their personal details and a few thousand dollars to unlock the fortune that awaits them. There really is one born every minute it seems!
All that said, and twenty-five years on, the www is still in its infancy. We have come a long way in the past 25 years, but we have really only scratched the surface as regards what the web has the potential to do to further improve our daily lives.
Where the vision to develop the www will come from in anyone’s guess. The only thing we know for sure is that the initiative won’t come from governments or their bureaucratic servants, simply because the people we elect to those positions do not have the required intelligence.
So its up to you. If you have any great ideas you want to share, send me an email.
You know, sometimes you just have to laugh at the stupidity and short-sightedness of politicians.
The latest idiot to hit the headlines is US House Representative Jim Sensenbrenner. You might remember him, he was the one who wrote the supposed anti-terror law now known as the Patriot Act.
Now he has asked the European Parliament for help in controlling the obviously completely out of control NSA who have decided this piece of ill thought out legislation gives them carte blanch permission to snoop into everybody’s business, friend and foe.
Apparently Congressman Sensenbrenner has belatedly seen the error of his ways and wants Europe to put pressure on the US to change its legislation to stop the spy agency’s mass communications data collecting activities.
Today Sensenbrenner says that the NSA has abused the trust placed in it by the American people. Powers that were designed to protect them, but powers that have been used to spy on them instead. And the Brits are at it too!
Big surprise Jim?
I think not!
Then there is the damage they have done to America’s standing throughout the world. The Merklegate scandal, where the German Chancellor’s cell phone was found to be bugged, is just one of many instances where America has treated its allies like enemies, creating suspicion and distrust where there used to be friendship and cooperation.
And the poor judgment continues, because Sensenbrenner’s solution to the problem he helped to create is not to get rid of this bad legislation, but instead to create even more bad legislation that purports to curtail the excesses of the former.
Won’t work Jimmy.
No point fitting a new lock on the stable door after the horse is already out and galloping roughshod over the privacy of the American people and their friends.
All very well for Jim Sensenbrenner to say sorry now, but wasn’t it inevitable that the massive ill thought out powers handed to the spooks after 9-11 would be abused?
Absolute power does corrupt – always! That is why checks and balances are necessary, only they need to be put in place in time.