Big brother is watching: a primer for tonight’s cyber surveillance talk at U of T

If you’ve ever experienced a 14 year-old neighbour tapping your phone line using nothing but a Commodore 64 (and who hasn’t? Or are we just too old?), you might be a little paranoid about how easy it is for just about anyone to know everything about you. And, for those who are a bit more laissez-faire about information and privacy, U of T’s free talk tonight just might be the place to get yourself up to date with the perils of today’s Internet.

We’ve compiled a list of important terms that might get thrown around at tonight’s talk, so you too can get secure and start listening for those pesky tapping noises on your phone line.

CCTV (Closed-circuit television): Ever feel like you’re always being watched? Well, you probably are. CCTV is the use of video cameras to watch your every move at airports, banks, parking garages, industrial plants, convenience stores, shopping malls and street corners. So, yeah, everywhere. Some may be set up to record and feed directly to network-attached storage devices to share footage with who knows who.

Cyber-surveillance: In addition to your 15 minutes of fame on the CCTV cameras, this refers to the monitoring of what you are up to when you use credit cards, social networking and search engines.

Data-mining: Online shoppers beware — this little gem examines patterns, such as what you buy and where you are when you buy it, what websites you visit and what terms you search on the Internet.

Dataveillance: This a conspiracy theorists dream. It systematically surveys, often in a surreptitious manner, all the electronic records of a person’s activities, especially the usage of credit cards, mobile phones, email and the Internet.

Citizen Lab: Heroes of the Internet. It’s an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, at U of T, which most notably saved the Dalai Lama from online attacks back in 2008.

Privacy Commissioner of Canada: If you’re not quite as important as the Dalai Lama, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The privacy commissioner is an officer of parliament and an advocate for the privacy rights of Canadians.

Proactive cyber defense: Finally, if you’re feeling bold, you can take matters into your own hands and disrupt, pre-emptively or in self-defence, an attack (or a preparation to attack) on computers and networks. Proactive cyber defence could require leet hacking skillz.

(Un)Lawful Access? Cyber-surveillance, Security & Civil Liberties: Experts & Advocates Speak Out, Munk School of Global Affairs, May 12

Article exclusive to TRNTO