By Andrew Watt
For anyone out there keeping score, my column is a tad overdue. To the handful of Second Opinion fans, I apologize. As for my growing legion of couch critics, well, all I can say is that it seems my journalistic death has been temporarily postponed due to lack of experienced trumpeters.
According to recent world media reports (also known as weapons of mass distraction), many of us are under constant government or corporate surveillance. To a certain extent this, Man Bites Dog type of headline holds some painful truths, but it is the infection behind the wound that actually requires attention.
Fact the level of surveillance activity as alleged by our man Edward Snowden is the most elaborate to have graced this planet in human history. Next is the belief that the general population, and even a few heads of state, are not just being covertly tracked, but aggressively hacked. And lastly, despite the odd protest or quick signature scribbled in anger, we still remain confused if not at all terribly bothered by the whole issue.
Now before I address these points, I must make a journalistic confession. I do openly admit to a negative bias on this subject for the strange but true reason that I am a distant relative of former vice president Dick Cheney. This, if nothing else, clearly proves the evolutionary theory that we all emerged from the swamps. But more to the point, I am actually a little nervous just from typing in the guys name. (If I go missing after I email this to my editor, you all know why).
Is this a logical fear? The answer is, well, it depends. Say I were based in a country openly hostile to Uncle Sam. Sprinkle in some juicy threats and stir it all up with an email campaign that conspires with others who also believe Mr. Cheney is the supreme lord of the living dead. Then yes, in that case a black SUV just might screech up on my gravel driveway, while I am sound asleep. Otherwise I need not worry, right? Right unless of course just one individual out of the tens of millions employed within one of the hundreds of government spy agencies happens to make a keystroke error or is a little over zealous when it comes to getting a promotion.
Wow, it appears that I have somehow addressed my points with this purely fictional (ha ha) example of what could go wrong if one were to mess with Mr. Cheney. But seriously, the greater risk of having your privacy compromised comes disguised in a corporate suit, minus the night vision goggles. Do you, dear reader, use Facebook or Google? Do you have a loyalty or rewards card in your wallet? If so, then you have already agreed (by default) to have your behavioural data collected, stored and mined. To have your habits, movements and decisions gathered is no longer viewed as spying: it is now the modern art of commerce. The practice of re-selling personal data (often to companies in the murky world of advertising) is in itself relatively harmless. Creepy and annoying, yeah, but as long as the information is not breached for the intent of identity theft, then we all seem happy to click on I agree.
Just cross those fingers and hope that some drunken copy boy doesnt leave his laptop behind in a cab with a driver covered with tattoos that resemble medals from the Russian mafia.
Thats all for now folks, so think it over. You might want to get a little further off the grid and start using more cash. If anyone out there thinks that I am correct in being critical of the powers that be, for goodness sake, send me a postcard, not an email.
Andrew Watt is the owner of Bishops Book Cafe (which is closed for November) in Fairmont Hot Springs. Hes a professional at nothing, but he does try. Really.