The Twitterverse exploded recently over the revelation that Samsung’s new SmartTV models might be watching the watchers. It was an odd admission for an electronics manufacturer to make.
Samsung promotes the new product by saying viewers need only “speak into the new Smart Remote’s built-in microphone” to find a desired channel or film. But they also included a warning:
“Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”
For many, the warning echoed George Orwell’s iconic novel 1984, about an all-knowing, all-seeing police state. Literary types quickly produced a telling quote.
“Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it…”
It’s interesting that stories like these can cause such a public reaction when our own government is now proposing to do something far more invasive and sinister. In Bill C-51,
the “Anti-terrorism Act” introduced in Parliament a couple weeks ago, the Conservatives open the door wide enough to legally allow it to identify almost any activity or statement they disagree with as “terrorism,” with the terrifying consequences that one would expect from such a charge.
The bill gives unaccountable and secret security agencies vast powers to target activity that “undermines the security of Canada” by interfering with federal capabilities in relation to the country’s “economic or financial stability.” Among the activities the Harper government has already included under these broad categories are environmental opposition to pipeline and oil sands projects. They also say unions undermine economic stability.
In fact, the legislation would criminalize any act committed for a political purpose that is intended to compel “a government,” any government, to do or refrain from doing something. In other words, practically any opposition democratic activity could be qualified as terrorism under the proposed law – including this editorial.
This moment should give us pause. The government-hyped hysteria over terrorism is a transparent ploy to create fear in a year Harper is facing an uphill battle for re-election. This legislation is a sign of the incredible danger to come if he succeeds in winning another majority later this year.
C-51 does, at least, bar our secret police from engaging in methods that “violate the sexual integrity of an individual” in their pursuit of anyone on Harper’s famous enemies list. We should be thankful for that, I suppose. But this threat to our democracy and our personal liberty strains belief, and that’s saying something after nine years of Conservative rule.
Unfortunately, the strong man pose appears to be working for Stephen Harper, especially in Quebec, where polls show surprising support for the law and his party after it had appeared the Conservatives would be wiped from the map in the next election.
People need to pay closer attention. This is a naked grab for authoritarian power by people with a clear and demonstrated track record in this regard. We need to take our eyes off our televisions, however smart they are, and look at where Stephen Harper is taking Canada. Then we need to use our voices to oppose him, even if Samsung might be listening.