Human Rights in the Global Village: The Challenges of Privacy and National Security

Document Type


Publication Date



Privacy, War On Terror, Terrorism, National Security, Globalization, Global Village, Human Rights, Technology


We live in a global village within which international and domestic human rights intersect and both fall under the cloud of terrorism and concerns about national security. The author argues that our basic human rights should not be sacrificed on the altar of national security but rather basic rights, such as privacy, should be carefully balanced against the collective need for security.

While claims can be made for a constitutional right to privacy, it is largely a statutory concept that can fall victim to other political imperatives such as fighting terrorism. Privacy is a casualty of the war on terror but racial profiling and restrictions on liberty are other problems that emerge from a broad definition of terrorism and an expansion of executive discretion. Information flow, the vital and non-neutral role of technology, and the growing sense of the state's right to know poses serious threats to the privacy of the individual in the post 9/11 world. While the Canadian response to terrorism has been more moderate than in the United Kingdom and the United States, there are still serious threats to privacy and other basic right in Canada; as evidenced by Security Certificates, secrecy laws and the export of technology to repressive regimes, such as China.

The author ends on a call for attacking the root of causes of terrorism such as poverty and economic disparity in the world. He also suggests that democracy, respect for basic human rights and the rule of law are the true allies in the quest for national security, and not its enemies. Terrorism poses a real threat to the Global Village but the best answers can be found in the classic Canadian values of moderation and balance.