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Surveillance, Then and Now: Securing Privacy in Public Spaces

Surveillance is growing, as are the technologies that extend its reach. But surveillance that facilitates the sustained monitoring of people engaged in everyday activities in public is, in Justice Gérard La Forest’s unforgettable words, “an unthinkable prospect in a free and open society such as ours.”

Unthinkable as it may be, the prospect of close and continuous surveillance is no longer simply the stuff of science fiction. Governments now have access to precise and affordable technologies capable of facilitating broad programs of indiscriminate monitoring. The unfettered use of these technologies raises the spectre of a true surveillance state. To freedom-loving people, that is an unacceptable prospect.


Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D.
Information and Privacy Commissioner
Ontario, Canada