The new cone of silence


We, all of us, had begun to think that nothing we said, did or even felt was private. After all, doesn’t London, England, maintain the largest collection of closed-circuit television cameras in public spaces of any city in the entire world?

We had even begun to suspect that in our own hometowns on this side of the pond, we weren’t actually safe from the prying eyes of spooks and creeps in the employ of Canada’s secret services.

In fact, we’ve lived with the conviction that our lives have not been our own since the last episode of the X-Files, just in time for the first episode of the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney road show.

An entire generation of voters in North America has not only grown accustomed to having its personal information mined and consumed by complete strangers – it has come to welcome it.

As Daniel Newman, a technology journalist, wrote in Forbes Magazine’s online platform last year, “With social media users well over a billion and a growing mobile and wearable trends that puts us online almost around the clock, we are ever connected and endlessly sharing what seems like our every idea.

“This feeling of connectedness undoubtedly gives many a sense of community and happiness, as it is through the sharing of our everyday lives that we are able to garner the feedback we seek and the validity that we need.

However, if we are fooled, for even a moment, as to what all of this is really about – the desire to have us tethered without wires and connected without cost – then we are delusional. . .I, for one, can say that I have almost never read the privacy policy of an application I downloaded.”

Indeed, we may be delusional. But when, this week, the U.S. Senate reformed one of the signature Acts – introduced in the aftermath of the 9-11 catastrophe to curtail individual privacy rights – for the first time in more than a decade confusion suddenly became clarity.

“Reversing U.S. security policy that had been in place since shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the bill would end a system exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowdon in 2013,” a Reuters report stipulated. “A federal appeals court on May 7 ruled the collection of ‘metadata’ illegal. The new law would require telephone companies to collect and store telephone ‘metadata’ the same way that they do now for billing purposes. But instead of routinely feeding U.S. intelligence agencies such data, the companies would be required to turn it over only in response to a government request.”

Oh, well, fellow plebes and peons, at least it’s a start in the right direction.

The notion that the state – which eschews paying for anything that might actually improve the minds, moods and attitudes of the citizens who fund it ­– works for the people has been discredited in so many present ways and means. That the Obama Administration – so hopeful, so fundamentally feckless – has finally managed to push through a truly progressive piece of legislation is, frankly, a miracle of American politics.

Could such an epiphany materialize here, in the Great White North?

Currently, our putative whistleblowers remain underground. They don’t seek asylum in sketchy nations where the weather is even worse than Canada’s. They wait in silence, knowing that nothing they say or do is actually private. They, who do the government’s business, keep their heads down.

After all, doesn’t Ottawa maintain the second-largest collection of closed-circuit television cameras in public spaces of any city in the entire world?

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