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Do stories of cell phone hacking raise worries about your own high-tech privacy?

Sunday on Cross Country Checkup: hacking into personal lives

The British press did it. Who else is invading our privacy?  The technology that we all love to use, can be used against us.

Do you worry about privacy in a high-tech world?

Join guest host Rachel Cave, Sunday on Cross Country Checkup.


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The discovery that journalists from a British newspaper, the News of The World, hacked into the cellphone of a 13 year old murder victim, as well as several other newsworthy people, has provoked outrage. It also has many wondering about their own security. The reporters did it to get information to build a story. And they were able to do it, partly because some people did not think their personal passwords were that important.

Today we want to talk about privacy. Is it a concern for you? Even something as simple as passwords. How many do you have to keep track of, as you go about your daily life. Are they secure? Or, do you suspect that they're not secure but you can remember them -- and somehow in the immediacy of running a life - that seems more important. Is any of this a concern to you? And it's just one aspect of privacy and security in a technological age.

New technology offers so much in terms of increased power of communication but it comes with a cost. The faster and easier it is to move information around ....the trickier it becomes trying to keep any of it private. Add to that, a tendency among the younger generation to share online every detail about their lives ...all encouraged by powerful social media programs that profit from it. And speaking of profit, one of the fastest growing businesses over the past decade has been the business of collecting information on you. Where do you live? How much do you make? What do you like to spend your money on? It's called "data mining" ...and it's not just businesses who are interested. Political parties want to know where you live and what you think and how you vote ...and how they can build their policies and appeals to better attract your vote.

These are actions by legitimate organizations, both business and political, and where their needs rub up against yours is the border we'd like to try to define. Are you comfortable with the collection of this kind of information? Would you like it to be more transparent, so you can say no ....if you think it goes too far?

There are others out there whose intentions are not so benign ...criminals who want to steal your identity and use it. They want your credit cards too and they're even willing to take over your mortgage -- temporarily -- to get your house. How much time do you spend making sure you are secure from this kind of theft?

What about the proliferation of closed circuit TV cameras? They're designed to prevent crime ...and many a criminal has been caught unsuspecting, in the act, but the cameras can also be used just to keep tabs on you. Does it make you uncomfortable? Should there be rules?

The big question when thinking about protecting privacy is: "Where do we draw the line between measured vigilance and paranoia?" We don't have to cover the windows with tinfoil but maybe we should think twice about the security of our passwords and to whom we release certain information. When it comes to security and privacy, who concerns you the most: criminals or businesses and government? Do you worry that increasingly the technology that we all use ...can be used against us.

Lots to talk about... our question to kick off the discussion: "Do stories of cell phone hacking raise worries about your own high-tech privacy?"

I'm Rachel Cave ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • Colin J. Bennett
    Professor of Political Science, University of Victoria. Author The Privacy Advocates: Resisting the Spread of Surveillance

  • Chantal Bernier
    Deputy Privacy Commissioner of Canada

  • Robin Sears
    Veteran political strategist who has advised three federal parties. He is now a public affairs consultant with Navigator Ltd. And a regular contributor to Policy Options Magazine.


Globe and Mail


Wall Street Journal classroom







I know why businesses and crooks want my data or ID, but what about the government? Recently I flew from Vancouver to the US. At US customs, I was asked to turn on my computer and then logon. The officer asked if he could view the contents of my computer, citing standard procedure. I objected, but my business travel was more important. He spent ten minutes looking through my files with no explanation. I reported this to my company upon arrival. At the same time, an officer was perusing the cell phone of another passenger.
What do they think they are doing?

Gordon Nott
Vancouver, British Columbia


Online privacy is a big deal. One thing that bothers me is the message we are sending to children. Whether at home, at school, or in the library, those internet connections are monitored and surveilled. We are passing the message that it is the norm for authority to monitor everything you do online. Imagine the cry if my child were to install an encryption tool on her school computer. The thing is, if it is online banking, making a credit card purchase, or just arranging a sleepover for the weekend - those communications are meant to be read by their destinee alone and not by anybody else. We need to be teaching our kids to use encrypted connections, and secure and anonymous should be the norm for even the most pedestrian use of the internet. Going the opposite way and teaching them authority has the right, and obligation, to monitor everything is going to produce a generation who accepts this kind of privacy invasion more easily than the ones before it.

Greg Ruthman


I think the average person has nothing to worry about. Hackers aren't going to bother with "Joe Average"; they want the corporations and people with lots of money.

And here's little tip,If you don't know how it works, don't use it.

Corey Robertson
Moncton, New Brunswick


Speaking of harassing telephone calls, Telus in Vancouver keeps phoning me every single day at different times, but never leaves a message on my answering machine!  I won't register with the "Do Not Call" folks, because that way, my unlisted number will be available to even more comapnies.
Jill Picard   
Victoria, B.C.

I don't worry for a second about the security of my information because I take necessary precautions to ensure that my private information stays that way.  I think the reason people en masse should worry is because they undervalue the importance of their personal information and give it out like candy without finding out where their information will end up.  People put more care into locking their house and vehicle when the liability of their personal information getting into the wrong hands can have far greater ramifications.

Perhaps the real solution begins with legislation to ensure that the same awareness campaigns and protection of personal assets are put in place for personal information.  Only then can the society as a whole feel safer.  Until then, there is a lot that the individual person can do to take precautions to prevent the loss of their information.

Heather Mcclinchey
Seaforth, Ontario


I made the mistake of registering my cellular phone number and now I get called by USA and offshore companies pitching vacations and credit card crap, with no recourse available to me.

Yes, the biggest problem with our privacy is our own government and their failure to have severe penalties, as they do in Sweden, for companies (and themselves) for failing to adequately protect customer and clients privacy.

In Sweden, government agents regularly test the security of company data bases, and if they succeed in breaking in, the company or department ends up in court with huge fines levied.
The EU has privacy protection laws that prohibits the disclosure of private information on web sites.

Why don't we have such laws?

The saying 'trust no one' is more applicable today, than it ever was.

Robert Rolf
Edmonton, Alberta


Good day. Great show. It takes media wrongdoing in the UK to expose all the flaws in the 'so-called' new technology that we rely on. Many of us wonder why and how can this happen. Convenience and 'ease-of-use' have trumped over caution and common sense. By willingly giving away personal information, we've  unwittingly let 'criminal elements'  of all types into our lives. Some news media organizations do it for greed and power. Others do it for monetary gain. It is up to each individual to protect themselves. The lawmakers can only do so much.

Simon King
Edmonton, Alberta


A couple of your callers today have mentioned the threat to privacy from governments and police forces. Many supporters of legislation to make more information available to law enforcement argue that there are safeguards due to the requirement for search warrants.

I am curious about how many search warrants are refused in Canada per year?

I suspect that the number is very low (maybe zero), and that the process of obtaining a search warrant in Canada is mostly a routine process that has very little oversight and that almost all search warrants are simply rubber-stamp granted.

Peter Caven
Burlington, Ontario


I have a problem with cloud computing. Moving data to a nameless faceless server means that third parties have access to your info. Likewise, I have a friend who every time he went to JFK in NYC in the early 2000's had his phone cloned.I have moved from a smart phone to a dumb cellular with email access.

Sam Goldberg


You just had the privacy watch dog on. She is the last one that should be trusted. Our government has ordered Facebook to supply information on demand to the police services and no one has to be told that they have had their privacy invaded. There lies the privacy, for government only.

Eric Baggs
Topsail, Newfoundland


I'm worried about medical information being put on line.  The Ontario government shows me commercials about how great it will be when all medical information is instantly available to any medical facility, and all I can think when I see these is that it will be instantly available to any hacker.

I have a Facebook account because my friends nagged me.  I don't use it.  I tighten the accesses periodically.  Having listened to this program, I think I'll just delete.
There's a couple of passwords I'm going to change tonight too.

Maureen Bourns
Toronto, Ontario


Everyone says they want privacy but this isn't the case for most people as they continue to buy Apple products that can be hacked whereas our own RIM blackberry is quite secure.

Stating that you will sue a company would be laughed at by most telemarketers because law suits are a long drawn out process requiring money up front etc.

We introduced a no call list but the consequences were that New Brunswick huge telemarketing companies and other marketing firms closed up resulting in marketing now done from outside Canada .

There is irony in the fact that the old "1984" movie picture showed  video screen watching people but this is what we are doing now in connecting our TV's to the internet for a two way communication.

Ronald Johns
Cambridge, Ontario


I suspect that most people on the Internet use it as they do their Toaster. It's considered pretty safe and not expected to burst into flame, even occasionally, it's not considered to be
unsafe.  However, there are, no protective organizations involved, such as CSA and UL, that keep help keep our Internet usage as free as possible from occasional combustion, privacy-wise or otherwise,like there are for our toasters.  There appears to be great unawareness
of the risk of the Internet, quite possibly because of how it's promoted, get online now or get left behind.  If people expected their toaster to flameout once in a while, they might take better care on the Internet.

If you don't mind, please don't publicize my last name, I don't need more spam or whatever else.

Ottawa, Ontario


I solved the phone call problem by putting my cat's name in the telephone book. Bell doesn't care what name is in the telephone directory so long as someone pays the phone bill.  If someone calls and asks for the cat,  I know  they don't know who I am so it's a purr-fect call screening tool.   I have a landline, no add-ons, and I don't pay to be unlisted. It's gotten quite interesting these days because my cat is getting credit card applications and offers from the Canadian Automobile Association in the mail.


Toronto, Ontario


Whereas your content on today's program, focused on telephone privacy and data hacking from cell phones, is important and interesting, a major revelation of the ongoing saga with Murdoch has not been mentioned yet.

This is the relationship of the press to the political and economic processes.  Behind the scene, non-transparent, dealings seem to be the current fodder of our own Government.  I wonder what influence the concentration of press ownership in Canada has on our political processes and the political and economic content of our media?  What behind-the-scenes connections between our Government and the right-wing press exist?

John Chapman
Pender Island, British Columbia


Haven't heard the whole program today, but find the discussion around giving up S.I.N.s, and birth dates very interesting.

Having worked in the I.T. industry for a while, and watching the evolution I'd offer up as advice what I've come to see.  It used to be the other way around, but I'd give out to someone my social insurance number or driver's license number before I'd give up my birth date.  Why?  I can get a new S.I.N.; I can get a new Drivers License number, but I can't get another birth date.

We have to give up the birth date to government agencies, but it should not be given out to other agencies.  They don't need to know. And if they insist that they won't deliver the service, then go elsewhere; or tell them, up front, you'll give them one that's made up.  And, even though government agencies computer systems also get hacked, certainly commercial systems get hacked on a regular basis.  Remember, if you've lost your birth date to a nefarious character, you've lost everything, and identity theft is a much greater possibility.  Never, ever, put a birth date on a social networking site.

Another small trick.  Get rid of your cookies.  There are other, and newer ways to track you over the Net, but this way is easy, and convenient - for others.  Turn your cookies on only when a site requires them, turn them off afterward, and then take them out of the browser's cache.  At the end of the day, turn off your computer, and unplug your Net connection.  Not infallible, but this also helps to keep intrusion out of the hands those who would invade your system.

John Hicks
Fort McMurray, Alberta

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