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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Freedom and the war on terror in the digital age Estrada Alvarez, Juan Gabriel

Abstract

Advances in Computer Science continue to provide more tools, each time more efficient, to aid us in our everyday lives with everything from work to entertainment, from health to management of natural resources. Technology has made our lives better and continues to facilitate progress. But just as it can benefit us, it is only a tool. That tool itself is not ’good’ or ’evil’; it is only useful to achieve the ends of those who utilize it. And just as it has been used for benefit, there have been cases where its use had a detrimental impact to us. Given the benefits, who is to deny that a government can keep track of its citizens in the same way a business keeps track of all its assets? The discussion here will centre on this question, where we suspect that, given technological advances, governments are tempted to achieve this goal. The purpose is to present some of the policies that governments in North America and Europe have proposed and/or adopted with respect to technology and national security, and point out flaws that could allow the undue erosion of privacy and free speech in the electronic world as a consequence. We reflect upon those measures that seem unjustified and unnecessary even in the face of terrorism, and argue that none of them include adequate safeguards to minimize the risk of abuse. We hope the reader will realize that none of the measures discussed admit that technology can accommodate the protection of civil liberties as well as security. We also argue that at least in Canada’s case, not counting academia and civil rights groups, policies and laws introduced as a consequence of the events of 9/11 seem to receive little attention from the public at large. Citizens would appear to be unaware of what is being done to mitigate the terrorist threat. Indeed, amidst such legislative actions, we may be getting used to living in a permanent state of war. We hope our conclusions give an insight into the current landscape of privacy protection in North America and, to some extent, Europe.

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