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Black Code: A cautionary documentary on the surveillance state

Black Code is a documentary about how modern conveniences can betray you at every moment, emitting what Ron Deibert calls “digital exhaust” which snooping governments and corporations can suck up and use to their advantage.

Mongrel Media.

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Black Code
Directed by
Nicholas de Pencier
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

They're seductive, those modern conveniences that connect you to the world – your computer, your phone, your Facebook page – but they betray you at every moment, emitting what Ron Deibert calls "digital exhaust" which snooping governments and corporations can suck up and use to their advantage.

Deibert, whose 2013 book Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace, was the basis of this film, is the director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, a crack team of roughly three dozen engineers, computer scientists, social scientists and others who track what they call "the exercise of political power in cyberspace." Director Nicholas de Pencier, best known as the cinematographer on the gorgeous, sprawling docs of Jennifer Baichwal (Manufactured Landscapes, Watermark), follows Deibert as he tramps across the globe, dropping in on the Dr. Evil-ish HQ of the Swiss ISP which housed the original WikiLeaks server (situated in a former nuclear bunker, all granite and steel and gleaming glass) and meeting with exiled Tibetan monks, Syrian activists, Brazilian protesters and others crushed by the weight of the surveillance state.

People often say they have nothing to fear from prying eyes because they have nothing to hide. Tell that to the Syrian man tortured for a month because of an ironic joke he made – privately, he'd thought – to a few friends on Facebook.

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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