Surveillance practices in Canada and the United States have historically been rooted in systems of oppression. Consequently, contemporary issues of online governance and corporate surveillance affect us in different ways depending on who we are.
Unintended consequences on privacy
For instance, targeted advertising on Facebook and Instagram has outed numerous closeted queer users. Doxxing*, the publishing of sensitive information about an individual with malicious intent, primarily affects the intersections of women, people of colour, and queer people online. Law enforcement employ digital surveillance technologies to specifically target black and First Nations activist groups, as we saw in Ferguson, Missouri and at Standing Rock. Cell phone searches at the Canadian-American border are steeped in racial and ethnic profiling, and allow the government to restrict a citizen’s mobility should they not produce sensitive personal information on the spot.
* Doxxing: the publishing of sensitive information about an individual with malicious intent, which primarily affects the intersections of women, people of colour, and queer people online.
Privacy is a feminist issue
Privacy is a feminist issue. Intersectional critiques of surveillance capitalism* are important because they address the underlying systemic issues that produce oppression along the lines of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Surveillance intrudes on our lives in different ways and to different degrees, and privacy enhancing technologies are unaffordable and inaccessible to many.
* Surveillance capitalism: the monetization of data that captures a person’s movements online and in the physical world.
Little consideration is being taken by lawmakers to create flexible privacy policies that account for the myriad of ways in which surveillance, artificial intelligence, and widespread data collection affect different identities.
For Further Reading: