by Timothy Blinks

Welcome, gentle reader, to the first installment of this column. In the coming issues, this space will feature practical tips on securing your digital privacy and resisting the worldwide surveillance regime.

The discussion and advice in this column will not be technical; if you can operate a smartphone or maneuver through the Web, you should be able to understand it.

I’m not a techie and I don’t expect you to be either.

Before we launch into the nuts and bolts of digital security, I want to describe the context and rationale for this column.

In the wake of Bill C-51 and Edward Snowden’s revelations, it’s clear that much of what we do online or with our phones is being tracked, stored and shared by security agencies in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. This is done without any meaningful accountability to judicial or elected officials. No real distinction is made between terrorist plots and legitimate political dissent and environmental and Indigenous activists have been targeted in particular.

In point of fact, even the NSA admits its enhanced cyber-surveillance has not prevented a single act of terrorism. “Terrorism” then has been used to excuse a democratic coup, where all citizens are subjected to a 1984-style surveillance regime.

These levers of power are already starting to fall into the hands of demagogues with fascist tendencies.

In the past decade or so, long-established rights — to privacy, to protest, to free speech and, in particular, to freedom from arbitrary arrest and warrantless surveillance — have been systematically dismantled in the name of security. One might say that while we were busy updating our Facebook status, liberties that were bought with blood and revolution have since evaporated.

Though I’m describing this in stark terms, all of it is common knowledge. Usually when we hear these facts discussed, we might ‘tut-tut’ at best, and feel helpless at worst.

Helpless, of course, is how those in power would like us to feel.

This column will not be like that. This column is about fighting back. It’s about practical ways we can reclaim our privacy and our rights.

Timothy Blinks farms and edits in the Lanark Highlands, having grown up in Ottawa and graduated from Carleton University. He fantasizes about tech-free living and economic apocalypse but has settled for writing this column and trying to start an ecovillage in the meantime.

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 9, No. 4 (January/February 2017).