cs492 - Spring 2017

Societal Implications with Computer Science

rpe09 -- Safety versus Freedom


American politicians have suggested that U.S. border agents should be able to ask for the social media usernames and passwords of visitors entering the U.S. In this scenario, we imagine that a similar counter-proposal has been made here in Canada. The new proposal is a gentler version of the American proposal. It does not involve asking for anyone's passwords - only their usernames. Still, it would mean that anyone entering Canada might have border agents examining their public Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts - even if those accounts are made under a pseudonym. A parliamentary committee has called stakeholders to testify for or against this proposal.

Team A. Better Safe than Sorry.

You are a policeman or border guard with a background in the military, and have been present when they were scraping bodies off the pavement after a terrorist attack, or maybe you are the relative of the victim of a terrorist. You think that such a thing should never happen if it can possibly be prevented. To prevent attacks it's necessary to identify terrorists in advance, terrorists who will do anything they can to hide who they are. It's not enough to look at what a person is willing to make public: it's essential that those in authority can look closely into their secrets.

Team B. Don't Fight Terror with Terror.

You are a civil liberties lawyer or possibly the client of such a lawyer. You have given up your time and income to defend clients whose rights were infringed by intrusive authorities. You think that the default case should be transparent application of the law to citizens who have a right to private life; there is nothing wrong with a systemn that requires authorities to obtain warrants from judges in open court when they want private information. Allowing undiscriminating rights of search abridges everybody's freedom, fighting terror with terror.

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