Former head of spy agency calls Canadians ‘stupid’ for posting information online

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Thousands of people are expected to march in Washington, D.C. today to In protest against the National Security Agency's spy program.

Guess what, Canada: We are "stupid" people who post way too much personal information online.

This according to the former head of Canada’s response to the National Security Agency, who seems to believe the problem with online privacy is that Canadians expect it in the first place.

It's one of the biggest questions of our generation. How much information do we share online, and how much protection do we expect from prying eyes?

Can we post photos, phobias and phone numbers on social media without having them come back to bite us in the backside? Or are we begging for online snoops, including those employed by the Canadian government, to snatch up our intel and wantonly put it to use?

According to John Adams, the former head of Communications Security Establishment Canada, we're all dummies when we log on.

“One half is stupid, and the other half is stupid,” Adams said, according to the Globe and Mail. “I can confirm that. We put more online, [on] Facebook, than any other country in the world.”

The comments came during a Senate meeting on Wednesday discussing a bill to create an oversight committee for all of Canada's security and intelligence agencies.

Canadian intelligence agencies have been under fire for their online tactics recently. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service was accused of snooping on pipeline opponents, and Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) is working on a system that monitors people who use airport Wi-Fi hotspots.

The oversight bill, supported by Adams, would provide more insight and perhaps better understanding about what government agencies are doing. Though he seems to believe the problem is that Canadians post things online in the first place, and not that government agencies gobble that information up like a pack of hungry, hungry hippos.

Adams later called us "not very smart," so at least there's breadth to his analysis.

Interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier had a differing view on the subject, calling Canadians "trusting" and appreciative of the democracy dedicated to protecting their privacy.

Adams' point, that Canadians are stupid because we post things online and specifically on Facebook, is somewhat specious.

Yes, Canada was found to be the most active Facebook users in August of 2013, with 19 million users logging on at least once per month and 14 million checking their feeds daily.

But that's probably less about us wantonly flinging our personal information into the hands of anyone who asks, and more about Canada being the most connected country in the world.

The Globe and Mail reported in 2012 that Canadians spend an average of 45.3 hours a month browsing the Internet – that's more than any other country.

The United States was second with 38.6 hours per person, meaning Canadians spent an entire eight-hour work day longer every month just surfing the Internet.

Canadians swim in online waters more than any other country. Saying we are "stupid" for sharing more information online is like saying Australians are stupid because they are more often attacked by sharks in the Indian Ocean.

Do Canadians share too much information online? Sure, everyone does. And nowadays the trust, faith and anonymity that once existed online are fading, if not gone already.

But does that make us stupid? Only if we post that personal information expecting it to be stolen by our government or used in nefarious ways. At best, Canadians are naive about posting their information online.

Stupid is a government proxy assuming that abusing the trust of Canadian citizens is fair game because they were careless enough to go online in the first place.

That's also more than a little insulting.

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