Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Salutin highlights the dangers of relying on bulk data collection and algorithmic analysis as a basis to restrict individual rights:
The National Post’s Jen Gerson interviewed a U.S. privacy expert. She asked about the PRISM program, by which U.S. agencies spy on Internet activity based outside the U.S., but which routinely rebounds back into the U.S. He said, “ . . . if we have intel that a reporter in Vancouver is a terrorist or whatever we’re going to ask for communications from the U.S. to Vancouver over this time period. They can get that, run an algorithm to see who’s been talking to X, Y, Z, maybe see your email address and your email to me . . .”
Now why did he use that example? Could it be because Vancouver is a centre of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline and other ways to move dirty Alberta oil to the Pacific coast. But isn’t all that surveillance directed at global terrorists? Here’s the link: Stephen Harper says devious “foreign money” is being used to hijack our regulatory process. Energy Minister Joe Oliver says “there are environmental and other radical groups” out to “achieve their radical ideological agenda” who take “funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.” And in his strategy on terrorism, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews includes “causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”
So picture the algorithm that “runs” when PRISM checks the Internet traffic between Vancouver and the U.S. in search of “terrorists.” It will twig at pipelines, environment, native peoples, regulatory hearings and funding from foreign sources that are more like the Sierra Club than Al Qaeda — in a search also implying treason.
- But Salutin is wrong in suggesting that the problem is limited to Canada, as the Guardian reports on the treatment of peaceful environmental activists as "domestic extremists" in the UK.

- Meanwhile, Alison raises an entirely valid concern that CSEC may have used complimentary BlackBerrys and other systems to spy on foreign journalists at G8 and G20 meetings in Ontario.

- Seth Klein suggests some lessons that we should learn from B.C.'s provincial election - with the dangers of a lack of real policy discussion ranking near the top of the list:
  • Progressives need to do a better job of presenting a compelling and convincing alternative vision for jobs and the economy. People understandably feel anxious about their economic security and future employment. This is particularly true in communities where jobs are currently heavily reliant on the resource sectors. And thus the election turned on the issues of jobs and the economy. If we don’t believe the jobs of the future should be based on the extraction and export of fossil fuels, then we must do better at laying out what a clean — and moral ­­— economy looks like, linked to concrete job targets.  

  • ...
  • There is a stark disconnect between people’s values and how these issues play out in the context of an election. On balance, the values and desires of most British Columbians remain relatively progressive. You see this reflected in polls that explore attitudes and policy preferences in a meaningful way (as opposed to the horse-race polls about party preferences). But too often, these values fail to find electoral expression, either because they are trumped by other factors, or more likely, because none of the main parties articulates a compelling plan of action.  And far too many feel alienated from the political process and don’t vote.  Importantly, the results of the election should not be taken as a majority support for a neo-liberal agenda.
- And finally, speaking of real policy debates, Sean McElwee offers some suggestions in responding to corporatist tropes about inequality.

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