Montréal, 10 juin 2000  /  No 63
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Hans Raffelt is an informatics professional who lives in Ottawa.
by Hans Raffelt
          These past months have been most revealing and disconcerting indeed. So much to think about and so much to worry about for all who value the sanctity of individuals' natural rights, which includes one's right to privacy.
          First it was revealed by an otherwise self-censoring and politically correct media that a complex, multi-national, pervasive, invasive and secretive apparatus known as « Echelon » exists and has been thriving for decades since the end of WWII. Europe is still fuming over this revelation, yet we don't hear a peep from our domestic media about Echelon, even though Canada has been part of this shameful shenanigan from the very start. 
          And then, not surprisingly, and likely not coincidently, Canada's very own Privacy Commissioner revealed last month that our federal government has been secretly compiling vast amounts of intimate details concerning the lives, the incomes, the welfare and the health of 33 million of our fellow citizens for the past fifteen years – purportedly for research purposes. One cannot and should not help but wonder just what they might NOT know about each and every one of us then and their motives? Next thing you know Ottawa, and no doubt its provincial cohorts, will begin tracking our credit and debit card purchases, our memberships in organisations, our blood types, our DNA, what we watch on television or on the Internet, including our phone calls, faxes, emails. Well, with Canada's now publicized role within Echelon – that's long been taken care of I'm afraid. 
What's next? 
          Those whose trust in government may be close to blind are no doubt of the mind that freedom loving folks like us should now just relax, re-evaluate our « paranoia », be ashamed, and realize that this week's decision by HRDC to suddenly scrap its expensive database is a testament to the fact that they only and always meant well, and that no further detailed information about us will be collected henceforth. Okay, perhaps not overtly evident, yet, they were able to do so for fifteen long years before good Mr. Philips (our Privacy Commissioner) threw it wide out in the open for all Canadians to be made aware of, and also to warn us. So, HRDC is now officially out of the covert information gathering business? 
          A lagging question beckons though: what department next? HRDC's rapid about face this week, which is quite unusual indeed, does not in my mind diminish the fact that the will of our federal government to compile detailed pieces of information concerning Canadians played an important role in their agendas for many years, and for reasons that I can only surmise, many of our governors likely still believe is necessary. Next time, we'll likely never find out. After fifteen years, it would not surprise me that vast amounts of that information has already moved to other federal and/or provincial databases from St. John's to Vancouver. I can only suspect so, yet if we remain blind and naïve in our faith in our elected and non-elected public servants, such a thought may never arise in many minds. 
     « Heck, give me a free hand at a few databases – especially those run by our governments, our medical, and eventually our commercial establishments – and rest assured, in short order, I will probably know far more about you than your own mother does or ever could. » 
          As I noted recently as per various news reports – do yourself and your loved ones a big, big favor: never pronounce the B-O-M-B word over the wire, even if you are merely stating metaphorically how badly you faired in your last job interview – for Echelon, and your fellow citizens, nay, our public servants at Echelon and CSIS, decide to tap straight into your phone lines, cell phones, emails, faxes, and God knows whatever else they can get their hands on. I know that it might be hard for some of you to censor yourselves and not utilize such popular metaphors… I use it all the time myself – yet one must be prudent no less given what we've learned over these past few months. If you want to risk it, do it, but that's your call and yours alone. 
          Back to the matter at hand, more specifically… To quote the Ottawa Citizen's story relating to this great travesty: 
          « The Longitudinal Labour Force File, managed by Human Resources Development Canada, contains detailed data on 33.7 million living and dead Canadians. Some individual files contain as many as 2,000 bits and pieces of vital personal information, Mr. Phillips said. »
          Stop. Think about that. Let it sink in. « 2000 bits and pieces of vital personal information ». Not 1, not 2, not 20, not 200, but 2000 no less! And never once were we asked or consulted, as to whether or not they should have the right to collect such vital pieces of information about us. A justifiable cost of living in a said « free » nation? A justifiable cost for keeping and being confident that we may keep our said « freedoms » 

          As an individual increasingly aware of the tendency of our governors – especially those south of our border – to almost lustfully seek and see evil in the most common of places, I am greatly alarmed to put it mildly. As an informatics professional with a background in programming and also databases, knowing full well the unlimited capabilities of programmatic means available to one at a marginal cost – especially to those who hold our purse strings – it takes very little effort for me to size up the wealth of possibilities, and opportunities. Heck, give me a free hand at a few databases – especially those run by our governments, our medical, and eventually our commercial establishments – and rest assured, in short order, I will probably know far more about you than your own mother does or ever could. And that which she might not know, yet which our government might, she might wish she never knew, and you too for that matter!  

          The evidence is now clearly before us, impressive ones indeed. For us to apply ourselves and reflect upon for all that we believe that we are worth. As freedom loving folks we have a duty onto ourselves, our kin, our friends and our compatriots to acknowledge this fact and to seek such ways whereby each and every one of us may be able to stem that tide moving expediently towards such a day when no individual's privacy, beliefs, thoughts and deeds remain sacred. Apathy, ignorance, blind and misguided faith in our governors, should we not rein in their zeal to lord over us, will likely accelerate our undoing in due course. At the current rate, it is likely just a matter of years and not decades away. This is surely only the beginning, in the very early stages, yet not an insurmountable challenge. Every effort to inform and enlighten those who fail to see what is clearly evident now, has the potential to help maintain our freedoms, and to ensure that such freedoms shall be maintained for as long as free loving beings remain. 

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