Reading this month’s issue of Wired Magazine, I came across an article on “The Museum of Endangered Sounds“ which is a site that preserves the dying sounds of older technologies like the ringtone of one of the earliest Nokia cellphones, the inching of the fax machine, the clicking of the dial on a rotary phone, the staccato beeps of count downs from movies, the dial up tone from AOL among other various obsolete technologies today. I clicked on all of the thumbnails so they’re now all playing simultaneously; it’s for sure noisy and chaotic, but not disruptive and I don’t think I’m going to get sick of it anytime soon.
The right to privacy and democracy are intrinsically intertwined in Canada. In fact, privacy is “ a right that is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” (A matter of Trust) and is a symbol of trust between government and Canadians. However, according to the Chief Justice of Canada, the threats of terrorism requires a need to reassess the measures needed to be taken for anti-terrorism. This brings up a key issue or tension, between how government perceives an individual’s right to privacy in respect to state security.
Fittingly, Daniel Solove’s piece, “I’ve got nothing to hide and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy” addresses two pivotal questions when talking about privacy: (1) How do we conceptualize privacy and (2) what is more important, the security of the state or the rights of the individual? Solove starts his piece by illustrating how the September 11 attacks propelled vigorous surveillance programs under the Bush Administration to collect data on people in order to map “suspicious behavior patterns” (Solove 746) to prevent future terrorism. Right away, the importance of state security is illustrated through the examination of the terrorist attack, and the idea is that any argument that is proposed against security is deemed arbitrary. In 2006 the NSA was reported to have collected personal data from telephone call databases and bank records from the “Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions (SWIFT). While many people were concerned with these reports, it was more-or-less silenced and devalued by the government because their case was that an individual need not worry about privacy if you have nothing unlawful to conceal: “Only if people desire to conceal unlawful activity should they be concerned[…][and] people engaged in illegal conduct have no legitimate claim to maintaining the privacy of such activities” (Solove 751). By using such an abrasive and authoritative tone, the government unveils their lack of interest in listening to the American people. Furthermore, the government has twisted the legitimate concerns of the American people by turning the issue of privacy into something sinister and undesirable. Another issue that was illuminated when the news of government surveillance was reported was the ambivalence and blasé attitude from many Americans concerning their privacy with questions like
“ So what? Which is then followed by, “I have nothing to hide [anyways]” (Solove 747). Whether the fear that was evoked by the government influenced how they conceptualize privacy or not, the fact that people felt that they did not have the right to interfere with authoritative bureaucracy illuminates a larger problem within government and how society is governed by it.
But why were some people unconcerned with their privacy? To address the ambivalence, Solove uses two literary references: George Orwell’s 1984 and Franz Kaftka’s The Trial, to better illustrate the different types of government surveillance. While other commentators see 1984 as a useful example of “inhibition and social control” (Solove 756) due to government surveillance, Solove believes that people are not as concerned about keeping their social information such as the type of cars they rent, or which hotel they stayed private because it does not directly interfere with their personal lives. Instead, a better way to think about the harms of surveillance, contends Solove, is to look at NSA surveillance through a Kafkaesque lens. The central issue in The Trail concerns the exclusion of the individual from participating in the process of information collection. The overarching dilemma in The Trial concerns how information is stored, used, and analyzed—“rather than information collection” (Solove 757). The real issue is not what personal data is collected, but what the government intends to do with it and how transparent are their intentions?
Finally, Solove reiterates the difficulty with the nothing to hide argument because “most privacy problems lack dead bodies” (Solove 768), meaning that people tend to focus on issues that viscerally and physically affect them while data mining, and privacy intrusion is something intangible and abstract. However, he emphasizes that privacy invasion is still harmful because it involves how information is processed on a larger political scale; one that deals with federal agencies and third party agencies who may utilize personal data without the individual’s consent. When it comes to talking about privacy, the issue of security interests is always pitted against privacy interests, and ultimately the matter of security is given more merit. Therefore, it is necessary to rethink the issue of privacy is terms of not whether the government is allowed to access an individual’s personal data, but the need for a set of responsibilities that come with data collection and information appropriation.
Solove’s argument on privacy provides excellent insight for us to ruminate over, especially how many of us think of our own privacy versus state security. Surely, security should be not be an issue taken lightly, but to what extent is surveillance about protection against terrorist attacks, pedophilia, etc., as opposed to maintaining authoritative hierarchy? This concern is addressed by Evgeny Morozov in his article: “Wither Internet Control” to think about why the arguments put forth by the government should be taken with a grain of salt before being too transparent in favor of security. Because the Internet has become a space where people can gather and organize political/social movements, Morozov argues that it makes “authoritarian rulers uneasy” (Morozov 67) because people are able to engage in civil disobedience more easily than ever.
Another issue that Solove highlights is the way privacy is framed in the media. The problem is that by assuming that people have nothing to hide, privacy is not needed. This not only negates an individual’s right to choose their degree of privacy but it perpetuates anxiety in people for the fear of seemingly hiding something from the government when there is nothing to hide in the first place. It is interesting that even though there are tools available to encrypt personal information, the general population does not seek or take advantage of them. Take for example, Tor—“a browser that blocks ISP addresses and defends network surveillance and traffic analysis” ( Tor). Tor is a browser that provides its users privacy from government surveillance, but why is it that people are hesitant to use it? Of course there may be several factors that may explain why Tor is not widely used, but one of the main reasons is that personal privacy is still something people have yet to come to accept as an individual right even in democratic societies.
Canada. Privacy Commissioner. “A matter of Trust: Integrating Privacy and Public Safety in the 21st century. [Ottawa, Ontario] : Privacy Commissioner of Canada. 2010. Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Web. 2. Nov 2012
Morozov, Evgeny. “Whither Internet Control?.” Journal of Democracy 22.2 (2011): 62-74.
Solove, Daniel. “‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy.” San Diego law review 44 (2007).
While many people are satisfied with their internet connection speed, the cost of internet might not be so agreeable. Canada has amongst one of the world’s slowest internet speeds and highest costs around the world. According to the OECD Broadband portal infographic, Canada ranks at 19th while Korea* sits in first place with the highest speed and lowest cost of $0.33 per mbps. Comparing the prices of internet in Quebec, the average monthly plan runs from $40-100 depending on the bandwidth provided. The majority of Internet users in Quebec use either Videotron or Bell and pay premium pricing for little broadband usage. Although Canada’s internet speed falls behind many countries it’s not the speed that’s the main problem. Most of us are able to access the information we want fairly quickly. The main problem is not that the internet speed isn’t fast enough, it’s that we are paying astronomical prices for low bandwidth compared to other countries around the world.
While there seems to be more services that offer streaming music like Spotify, Grooveshark, 8tracks, and itunes, it’s important to consider the data usage when streaming and/or downloading music. According to Videotron,60 GB gives you approximately 100 hours of browsing, 200 videos, download 300 songs, playing online for 55 hours, and listen to the radio for 30 hours. For instance, if you stream a 2 hour HD movie on Netflix, that brings you to about 3600MB which converts to about 3.5 GB.*That means if you have a 60 GB data allowance, you can stream around 17 hours worth of movies/songs a month. While that may seem like a fair amount, that doesn’t include regular browsing, uploading, downloading on a day to day basis. Of course if you’re sharing your bandwidth with housemates then the bandwidth limit will be hit much faster.
But why are internet prices so high here in Canada? According to the Berkman Center “regulatory hesitation and an over-reliance on competition between telephone and cable companies are the causes of Canada’s poor performance. While the CRTC did institute open-access rules that require network owners to share their expensive and hard-to-replicate infrastructure with smaller competitors, it has only done so half-heartedly” (CBC). In other words, lack of competition amongst ISP providers cause unfair distribution of broadband infrastructure (favoring large telecommunication companies over smaller independent service providers), and finally little to no interference from the CRTC to regulate prices are some of the fundamental reasons why Canada sits at the bottom in terms of pricing.
So what are some possible solutions to bring internet prices down? One of the best ways is to stay informed with changes in telecommunication policies. Visit Openmedia.ca and sign up for their updates to keep up with current news and participate in their strategy plans like their current proposed plan. Another similar organization is Openwireless.org, a project by the EFF. (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Other ways include subscribing to independent service providers such as Tekksavvy, or Radioactif who offer lower and more affordable prices for the same amount of bandwidth as other larger competitors.
Alternatively, support and get involved with nonprofit organizations such as Ils Sans Fils “a non-profit organization (NPO) that aims to provide free public wireless Internet access in Montreal”(À PROPOS).
Internet prices of Videotron, Tekksavy, Radioactif and Bell:
At $42.95 you have a 60 GB Bandwidth cap
*At $39.99 you have a 300GB bandwidth cap
*Factual error corrections: (1)In the previous post, it was written that Canada ranks 23rd,but it was outdated. The updated version of Circa‘s 2013 Factbook for their 2011 infographic is now posted.
(2)In the previous post, it said 2 GB. Thanks to some readers who pointed out the mistake, the post is now updated.
The original post for Open Media at Mcgill can be read here.
Let’s talk about second hand computer stores. So my usb cord on my laptop charger suffered from a long and torturous death by fray. My first thought was to get a second hand charger from a shoddy computer shop down the street because there’s tons in my neighborhood. They’re sketchy looking, disorganized and not to be hateful but the owners are rude and look like they don’t get enough sunlight or nutrition (not that that matters, but just an observation y’know.)
But who cares about the appearance right? For someone who is concerned with excessive technologies being produced and consumed today, I should think twice before buying certain new electronics anyways. Besides, my laptop might not even outlast my charger because it’s starting to show signs of death again.
However, as I stepped in the store, my confidence dwindled on buying used electronics. The store was in disarray and I can’t take a store seriously when they try and sell unrelated products, like sunglasses…(seriously!?) A series of questions and concerns started to form: Where did all these electronics and accessories come from? Are they legitimate? There wont be warranty for my product. He went behind the store and pulled out a charger out of a tupperware bin and told me it was cash only. Oh no, red flag. Cash only and disorganized?
Fortunately/unfortunately I didn’t have cash with me, so I went to Bureau en Gros instead. The feeling upon stepping in a large business was so different compared to the used computer store. The lights, uniformed sales associates, shiny packaged goods all lined up, options, etc etc. I felt like I would be happy and secure with my new charger here–only it was priced triple times more. (YIKES).
After buying it, I suffered from buyer’s remorse, as usual, and started to seriously question if this charger was even going to last longer than the used charger. This question will be left unknown but I decided to return it and buy the used charger.
Used electronics have their own set of problems, I know. But a charger that still works is completely useless if it’s sitting in a bin. Priced at a third of the price of a new one, I felt like I needed to save the charger from obsolescence, and also my bank account. I also want to believe so badly that this used charger will last just as long as a new one. Only time will tell.
I have to admit I would think twice about buying certain products there, but for various accessories like adapters and chargers, it’s kind of important to recirculate them before they’re completely defunct. I think there’s a disconnect when tech stores look outdated because technology is synonymous with progress. When you see a tech store carry both decade old to the latest products, it just seems odd, doesn’t it? The thrift economy is already something that I find necessary but used electronic stores are often marginalized and should be reconsidered even if only for accessories.
If you’re reading this, I’m amusing that you are reading this on an electronic device. Whether that be a computer, cell phone or reading tablet of some sort. I’m wondering, is the device an updated and new version of your previous one? where is your first, second, third or fourth cellphone? computer? I have to admit that I’m not impervious to riding on the electronic market train. I myself have succumbed to updating replacing my perfectly good blackberry for an iPhone. I know. I really am ashamed of myself. Here I am talking about technological obsolescence while I just bought myself an unnecessary new phone. I have now two cellphones sitting in their boxes in my closet. Had I not sold out to the new phone craze, I would be talking about about this topic of waste with a critical eye. But seeing that I can’t, I’ll talk about the topic in a “what now?” manner.
I think the most important thing you can do is reduce. Meaning do not do what I did. But who am I to lecture? There are also times when you have no choice but to replace your device prematurely because your electronic device breaks down due to planned obsolescence. So, that being said, whether it’s your VHS player, your DVD player (that you have now decided to replace with a blu-ray player), your old (functional/defunct) laptop, Walkman, phone (and the list goes on), here’s what you can do instead of throwing it away to sit in a landfill.
- “RRR”– Reduce.Reuse.Recyle. As mentioned before, the best thing one can do is reduce. The term can can be appropriated in different ways depending on the lifestyle of the individual. No judgement here. But reduce whenever possible.
- Reuse: I recommend storing your electronics in a safe, dry and room temperature space when you no longer need it. You never know when your new device will break down, drown in the toilet or be forgotten on a bus. You’ll be happy that you have a back up.
- Often times the chargers can be used for your new devices as well so that saves you having to spend more money
- You can help a friend out if they are also encounter the same problems
- If your device fails to turn on, try again in a few months ( I know this may be unrealistic for many) but in my case, after about 9 months of leaving it in the closet, it resurrected from its temporary grave. After some research, it turns out the CPU fan overheated and after cooling down the wires re-surged
- Vinyl record players are becoming a desirable commodity (again). Perhaps other electronics will too.
- Trade in/Swap: For some electronic companies, you can trade in your gadgets for credit or a new phone( I know, this is part marketing ploy, but if you need/ really want a new phone it’s better than throwing it out)
- Recycle: If you must, always recycle rather than throwing it out in the garbage or your curbside. Be informed about the recycling process though. Just because you think you’re doing a good deed, doesn’t mean the material will be taken care of properly. Read here to find out where e-waste ends up.
- Find your local electronic recycling depot, here are just a few:
- Canada,The United States and UK: ERA
- Canada: Encrop Pacific, Staples, Ontario ( OES )
- Next, learn about their recycling procedures: Incerated? Reused? Exported? ( In many developing countries, the recycling processes are not in a purpose-built plant and releases harmful toxins)
Finally, just be informed. It’s not a crime to love new gadgets, but just search “e-waste” or “electronic landfill” and look at the images. I’ll end off with a video from GOOD magazine about e-waste.
Today inaugurates the new mobile phone policy under the DMCA(Digital Millennium Copyright Act): Unlocking your cellphone will now be illegal in the States unless you ask permission from your wireless provider. In 2009, EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) sought to exempt phone unlocking and even won after proposing to the DMCA, but the victory was short lived; although not surprising since telecommunication policies are always changing. In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress was asked to review whether or not unlocked phones and other mobile unlocking options should still be a protected right and the Librarian decided that it was no longer necessary to exempt unlocking.
Locks do two things for a mobile phone company:
It provides a means for them to recover the subsidy on a phone. Phones are often sold at or below cost to a customer when the company is comfortable they will make up the subsidy from that customer over time. Customers can’t get a subsidized phone and then buy monthly service from a different company (for instance, purchase at cost from WIND but use on another network).
The lock makes it more difficult for consumers to use the phone on a different network. Not only does a customer need to port their number, they also need to get a new phone (or find some way to unlock the phone they have). Unfortunately, this limitation of consumer choice restricts competition – something the Canadian marketplace desperately needs. This also means that Canadians travelling with locked phones overseas are forced to incur international roaming charges, instead of switching to a local provider for the trip.