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I Don’t Fear a Surveillance State When It Comes To The Safety Of My Family

May 9, 2022

More than a decade ago, I was working in the red-hot cash for gold business.

There was big money at stake.

There was no room for fooling around.

At one point, my competitor sent a child with stolen gold to my store. He tried to trick me into buying the stolen gold. I refused.

One hour later, two detectives walked into my store and they said: “We have a tip that says you're buying stolen gold from children.”

I smiled a big smile. It was perfect. It became so clear to me that I was set up.

But it didn't matter at all. It didn't matter because I was on camera from five different angles, every second of every day that I was in there.

I invited the police officers into the back and showed them a video of me very clearly refusing to buy the child's stolen gold.

Over the next few years, incidents like this became common. Our surveillance network was used in multiple investigations – including the cash for gold, murder-for-hire story of 2010.

Most of it occurred at the store I worked at.

Gold fever really brought out the best in people back then.


Leslie Kennedy doesn't offer her kids privacy online and she plans to keep it that way.


A State of Surveillance

When I first started working there, I was skeptical about all the surveillance.

It felt like my employers didn't trust me.

The cameras were set up in such a way that you were always being recorded by at least two cameras. 

It was bad, but I was just relieved that they weren’t watching me in the bathroom.

The experience reminded me of the character Red from The Shawshank Redemption who said, “I tell you, these walls are funny: First you hate them, and then you get used to them. Enough time passes and it gets so you depend on them.”

Over and over my actions were called into question and over and over I was able to pull up videos of me, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, from multiple angles.

Being Seen

Years later, I have made my peace with the surveillance state.

Like Red, in many ways I have even come to depend on it.

It occurred to me that as long as I am not doing anything wrong, the cameras are there to protect me, not punish me.

When I think about my daughter and wife going into the world on their own, I am relieved that they will be on cameras most of the time. I like the fact that my bank monitors our spending habits and alerts us when there is a problem. The police can scan my license plate all day and I won’t say a thing.

I know many people will cringe at what I am writing.

"How often are people reading through extremely long terms and conditions guidelines before clicking 'agree'?"

They may think that the idea of sacrificing privacy for security is absurd.

I don't necessarily disagree. But I do think that it is a very delicate balance.

I try to be selective and more intentional about how I forfeit my family's privacy. But even that isn't easy.

Despite our best efforts, our personal information is bought and sold by billion dollar companies without our knowledge or consent. How often are people reading through extremely long terms and conditions guidelines before clicking "agree"?

And, honestly? Sometimes even our best efforts won't be enough, because governments indirectly spy on their citizens by spying on other countries and exchanging information with them through the “Five Eyes” program. That surveillance is there whether we ask for it or not.

Making Sacrifices

In our family we accept many concessions for the amount of security we get.

I love the idea of doorbell cams and dash cams.

I love that my daughter has a running log of every person she interacts with on Discord.

I love that every bill I pay has an immutable digital stamp that is recognized nearly universally.

And, yes, I'll accept any cookies I come across.

"When my daughter becomes a teen, she will be mostly free to go wherever she wants — as long as she has a tracker on her phone."

I’m not keen on giving up everything to this state of things. I do have my limits.

I can't stand the idea of a Roomba mapping my home and selling the floorplan. Nor the idea of Google selling my personal information.

I am also appalled at the implications of facial recognition technology.

Moving into the future we will all have decisions to make about how much privacy we will sacrifice. For example, when my daughter becomes a teen, she will be mostly free to go wherever she wants — as long as she has a tracker on her phone.

It’s not like I am going to wait for her to come home and yell at her for staying at someone's house for 10 minutes when she was only supposed to stay five. It simply provides an excellent tool in an emergency scenario, nothing more.


Is there a case to make for an eight-year-old being on Instagram? Debbie King thinks so.


A Billion Dollar Proposition

Yes, it bothers me that the information gathered in an app could be used to make billionaires even more money.

It bothers me that, in the wrong hands, an app could be used to hunt down and murder my daughter.

But as I see it, the latter scenario seems unlikely. And I have my doubts about billionaires extracting any profitable data from my kid.

As such, I have decided that these are concessions I am willing to make.

Because think we have come a long way since the days of 1984. Yes someone is watching, but it's not big brother.

I think the Canadian government is one of the biggest bleeding-heart soft-arm governments in the world. It has always been too much like a “little brother” to give me any pause or worry.

As a result I trust my society with my family's privacy. It's the choice I have made because it makes me feel more confident about our family navigating the world at this stage in our lives.

It may not be the same choice everyone else makes but it is the conversation that is important.

Article Author Quentin Janes
Quentin Janes

Quentin Janes is a writer whose influences include Raymond Kurtzweil, Steven Pinker, Noam Chomsky, Niall Ferguson, Jeremy Rifkin and Martin Luther King Jr — among countless others. He is a putterer, a tinkerer and a fixer of broken things. From bad grades to bad dogs to toilets, kids or drywall, he says he can fix it all.

 

 

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