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Government Surveillance in Canada: How spying can be curbed

May 8, 2014

Groundbreaking new book by leading privacy experts launched as government comes under increasing pressure on online spying

Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada reveals how Canadians are increasingly leading their lives under pervasive government surveillance and shows how out-of-control government spying can be curbed

A groundbreaking new book about surveillance in Canada will be launched later today. The book is the work of the New Transparency Project, a multidisciplinary research team led by Professor David Lyon, a leading Canadian privacy expert and member of the Protect Our Privacy Coalition. Entitled Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada, the book shines a light on how Canadians are increasingly living their lives under the eye of pervasive government surveillance.

The book explains why and how surveillance is expanding into every facet of life using nine key trends that raise urgent questions of privacy and social justice. The team behind Transparent Lives investigated the major ways both government and the private sector gather, monitor, analyze, and share information about ordinary citizens in Canada. It also shows how the recent growth in government surveillance can be reined in. The book launch will be followed by a two-day research workshop on surveillance.

Speaking in advance of the launch, Professor David Lyon said: “Since Snowden's revelations, surveillance is in the news. But we often have only a vague and fragmentary sense of what surveillance is or why it's important. Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada puts all sorts of surveillance -- on the street, in airports, on social media, carried out by government agencies, police or corporations -- in context. Nine key trends are explained that show why surveillance is growing in particular ways. But it's not just analysis. The book shows how surveillance can be curbed and can serve the common good.” Executive Director Steve Anderson, who will be speaking at the research workshop on Saturday, said: “This book is a vital expert contribution to the growing nationwide debate about how to rein in out-of-control government spying. This government is spying on Canadians once every 27 seconds, mostly without any warrant or judicial oversight. They’re even pushing controversial bills through Parliament that would make this problem even worse. It’s no wonder that Canadians are speaking up in their tens of thousands to call for modern protections to safeguard our privacy in this digital age.”

The book launch comes at a time when the government is coming under increasing pressure about its surveillance practices - with its Online Spying Bill C-13 coming under tough scrutiny before a House of Commons committee, and with fresh revelations that the government spied on Canadians without a warrant over 1.2 million times in a 12 month period.

The launch takes place from 5-7pm tonight at the University of Ottawa Social Sciences Building (Room 4007, 120 University Private, Ottawa). The launch will be followed by a two day research workshop on The Politics of Surveillance: Advancing Democracy in a Surveillance Society. A number of Protect our Privacy Coalition members will speak at the workshop, including Prof. David Lyon, Prof. Colin Bennett, Prof. Andrew Clement, Dr. Chris Parsons, Micheal Vonn (BCCLA), Tamir Israel (CIPPIC), Vincent Gogolek (BC FIPA), Sukanya Pillay (CCLA), and’s Steve Anderson.

Transparent Lives is also available as a free PDF download by Athabasca University Press. It was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and is published in both official languages.

The Privacy Coalition is running a sustained nationwide campaign for effective legal measures to protect Canadians’ privacy from government surveillance. 37,000 Canadians have called on the government to take action at


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