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December 22, 2011

Ottawa Citizen

We will soon reach the point where governments will have the capacity, should they wish it, to monitor, record, and permanently archive the communications and activities of their citizens from birth to death. That’s the sobering message of a new Brookings Institution report by John Villasenor, an engineering professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Within the next few years,” he writes, “it will be technically possible and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders – every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.”

The machinery for such monitoring – from intercepting electronic communications to recording images of faces and licence plates in public spaces – already exists and is rapidly improving. Yet, it is the plummeting cost of data storage that makes total surve...

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Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

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