Sunday, January 8, 2017

Personal privacy: essentially, it's a constitutional debate

When the Americans added the Bill of Rights to their Constitution (to ensure its ratification by a few recalcitrant states, I believe) in 1791, it was a revolutionary (pardon the pun) notion that the government should be restrained from infringing on the rights of sovereign citizens. Under Crown law, there were no such restraints on the actions of the King to his subjects.  

At that time, there were no huge corporations that needed to be considered when imposing limits on institutional power.  That is what has changed most in 225 years ... essentially, citizens still have a right to privacy (to be secure in their persons, homes, and possessions) ... government is still restrained, by law, from infringing on those rights.  The difference is that now it is corporations that hold the real power in the US, and pose the greatest threat to individual liberty.  The government serves corporate interests in the US.  That's the nature of its "inverted totalitarianism."

Transparency is the key ... that's why courageous, self-sacrificing, individuals like Edward Snowden are so important.  They expose what we have a right to know, in order for democracy to exist.  Without that transparency, our society is under totalitarian rule.

The "terrorist" threat, insignificant as it is, is being used to stymie attempts at transparency. "National security", you know.  The attack is not one on our privacy; it's an attack on open government and self-governance by the people.

Protecting our privacy should not be our primary concern.  Protecting our rights to that privacy, to live free from government and corporate surveillance and profiling, should be a major concern to all of us.  The fact this it is NOT a concern to most people is an absolute guarantee that those rights will be abridged.  And, in all likelihood, we won't even know about it.


One of the most significant things that was not well understood about the events of last year was that it's not entirely about surveillance. We have seen a trend toward governments that are affording themselves, in secret, greater powers and more and more authority without the consent or awareness of the public.
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Edward Snowden, November 7 2014

Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides everyone in Canada with protection against unreasonable search and seizure. This right provides Canadians with their primary source of constitutionally enforced privacy rights against unreasonable intrusion from the state. Typically, this protects personal information that can be obtained through searching someone in pat-down, entering someone's property or surveillanceUnder the heading of legal rights, section 8 states, succinctly:  Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.