Cheers and Jeers

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Jeers: to the secret agents in our midst.

CBC News reported Friday that one of this country’s spy agencies — the Communication Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) believes it’s acting completely legally by using clandestine tracking software to collect data on the travelling public using WiFi sites in Canadian airports. The information would allow the CSEC to track travellers airport to airport and, after a successful trial run, is apparently in place now, collecting location information and the telephone numbers of any call you make or receive, but not the actual content of your calls — the kind of “metadata” collection that CSEC maintains makes it legal for them to be collecting the material. You can take the view, “oh well, what the heck, it’s metadata and I’ve got nothing to hide.” A far more reflective view is that of Ontario's privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukia, who told the CBC, “It is really unbelievable that CSEC would engage in that kind of surveillance of Canadians. Of us. … I mean that could have been me at the airport walking around. … This resembles the activities of a totalitarian state, not a free and open society.” It’s beginning to look like CSEC — in the process of building a monster new headquarters in Ottawa — should have to answer to someone much more pointed than just a federal cabinet-appointed oversight commissioner. How about public hearings? And how about all your metadata on display, CSEC? Because you’ve got nothing to hide, right?

Cheers: to how to handle government missteps in an emergency. Here’s Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on problems with unexpected snow, from an online story on CNN: “Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal today apologized to people who were stranded on roadways and to the parents whose children had to stay overnight in schools after Tuesday’s snowfall. ‘As a parent, I certainly understand how someone would feel if their child was either on a school bus or at a school and unable to come back home,’ Deal told reporters. ‘The buck stops with me,’ Deal said at a news conference in Atlanta. ‘Our preparation was not adequate,’ the governor added. ‘I accept responsibility for that.’ He said he has ordered an internal review by ‘all agencies involved in this process,’ and he will accept offers of external review by outside agencies.” Everything doesn’t have to be an instant solution, but taking charge is a pretty good start.

Cheers: to doing the right thing. The province brought in new regulations about tanning salons on Friday, making it illegal for people under the age of 19 to use the facilities. Artificial tanning has been identified as a leading cause of melanoma, especially in the age group between 15 and 29. There are plenty who would probably argue that people — even teens — should be responsible for their own behaviour when it comes to their health, but if you’ve ever raised a teenager, you know just how large a blind spot teens can have for the future effects of their actions. Direction and regulation in this area is a very good thing.

Organizations: CBC News

Geographic location: Ontario, Ottawa, Atlanta

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