Conference notes – CFP 2009

Sitting in the audience at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy 2009 conference (wiki, Twitter stream, blog, ustream live broadcast) today, I’ve heard several speakers try to discuss how privacy relates to concepts like national security, surveillance, information security and Web 2.0 applications. At the core of each discussion is an ongoing (some would say never-ending) debate: does privacy come at the expense of this other “X” element?

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How the Olympics results in increased surveillance

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Canadians often face the argument that increased public video surveillance is necessary to guarantee their personal safety, or to make sure that their neighbourhood, community or city remains free of vandalism, poor driving or violent crime. Once a new surveillance technique or technology is put into operation, it becomes difficult to reverse the decision – and, consequently, we, as individual members of society, lose one more private moment in time.

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Do you enjoy being watched?

The author of a new article on surveillance in The Walrus thinks you do. Hal Niedzviecki says that while the thought of being monitored used to disturb us (think George Orwell and Nineteen Eighty-Four), cameras and other surveillance techniques are so prevalent today that we’ve stopped noticing them. And, he says, when we do notice we don’t really care (case in point: when it was announced that 10,000 cameras would be installed in Toronto’s subways, streetcars and buses, he asserts that citizens “shrugged and went about their business”).

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