Academics Against Mass Surveillance

by uwchevron

Author: Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

Recent leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden implicated the Canadian government in questionable surveillance methods and NSA co-operation, both during the G8 and G20 summits. These classified documents reveal an appeasing attitude towards NSA operations and “close co-ordination with Canadian partners”, more particularly the Communication Security Establishment Canada (the same CSEC who has access to CSIS, which has a history of recruiting on this campus). Now, one might think that such revelations would spark public outcry or protest, yet the crickets keep chirping and the government remains silent.

It seems as though no local or national measures have been taken to show opposition to privacy infringement or questionable information gathering. Yet such surveillance methods are not only a danger to us, or North America as a whole, but they pose a significant threat to the larger international community.

Academics Against Mass Surveillance is an international petition formed by four individuals from the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam. Although petitions are often scoffed at, a declaration of opposition is a necessary component for any push towards a change in policy. At the time of writing this article, the petition had hundreds of signatories from academic institutions all over the world: Germany (81), Netherlands (70), the U.K. (55) and the U.S. (30). Canada wass shamed in comparison, with only 9 signatories (including two of our own, Associate Dean of Arts Robert W. Park and Professor Ian Goldberg).

As a person who values his privacy, I was interested in any efforts our own community at Waterloo might be putting forward to maintain security while browsing the net. Interestingly enough, the Computer Science Club is known to host a number of computer security and privacy events. While the petition is now closed due to having reached a certain number of participants, students can still always take the important step of building their own security with the help of workshops like these. Security should start at home.